Sunday, August 31, 2014

Caught in the Clouds

I haven't felt like blogging in a long time. I have felt like writing to some degree, and I've been doing that, but it's the kind of writing that is more private than this blog would allow. Too specific, naming too many names. Sometimes the only way to feel better about things is to name names.

But the summer is coming to an end and maybe things will get better. I love autumn, so that will make a difference, I think. Plus relevant sports are coming back, and I can see posts about that being written in spontaneous joy. Or spontaneous sadness, but hopefully not too much of that.

My birthday is on Wednesday. I am trying not to think about it. Especially trying not to think about where I was, or who I was with, last year on my birthday. I do remember impressing someone by doing a shot of Jameson, which was the highlight. And now we're drifting too close to specificity. Never mind. I've been specific enough on that topic.

I want to come back to this, but I feel blocked. I don't know. It's hard to explain. I just haven't had the same passion for pop culture-y things that I used to have that made me want to write about movies or TV shows. I'm behind on everything. I mean, I've only gotten through four episodes of the second season of Orange is the New Black. That's just tragic. There is no excuse for that.

Nothing is inspiring me right now. Hopefully that changes soon, somehow.

In other news, this song is the one that most accurately describes how I've felt all year.

Friday, June 27, 2014

JUNE BOOK HAUL

I have been buying so many books. TOO MANY. I have discovered a thing called BookTube, which is just a bunch of people on YouTube who vlog about books. And while I have no plans to start my own BookTube channel (I am lacking a decent camera setup), I have been hoarding book recommendations like crazy. My Goodreads To Read list is getting ridiculous. It's fine, though, because as a person who wants to be a writer, buying tons of books can be justified as research. That is now and will forever be my excuse.

Anyway, here is a picture of the books I have recently obtained:


This picture did not turn out as great as I wanted it to but I already put them away and I don't feel like redoing it because I'm lazy and it's Friday night and so here is this crappy picture, I'm sorry for failing you with it.

HERE WE GO.

Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo. Okay, I have talked about the first two books of the Grisha trilogy on here previously. This is the conclusion to that trilogy. I am not going to give too much away here, because I don't want to ruin anything for anybody, but personally, I thought this final book was a perfect ending to the story. I've seen some haters here and there who were complaining about it for various reasons but I am ignoring them. This book is great, this trilogy is great, Leigh Bardugo is great... everything. Is great. And Leigh said on twitter that she's writing another series set in the same universe so that is very exciting! There is definitely a lot of room for more to happen in the world she created so I can't wait to see what she writes about it next.

Grave Mercy and Dark Triumph by Robin LeFevers. These are book one and two of the His Fair Assassin trilogy (?) (as far as I know there are only going to be three). I've already read Grave Mercy and I loved it. It is very hard for me not to love a book about assassin nuns who aren't really nuns because they fall in love. And murder people. But the murdering is sanctioned by the god they serve so it's fine. Also, they kill bad people, like rapists and traitors. I've been reading Dark Triumph and I'm not loving it as much as the first one, but it's still really great. This series is full of awesome ladies and I'm super excited for the third one, Mortal Heart, to come out later this year.

City of Bones by Cassandra Clare. This one is on here because of all the BookTubers who were talking about the newest and I guess final book in this series by her. BookTube people seem to love this series a ton, but I have heard mixed things about it elsewhere. So I don't know if I'm going to like it. We will see!

The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith. AKA JK Rowling if you did not know. That's mainly the only reason I want to read this, or finish reading it since I started it on my iPad. I got the hard copy of it since it was out in paperback finally and I prefer paperbacks. (I know I'm the only one on the planet who does, but they are just lighter to carry around which is what I like... unless I TRULY adore the book and want it to last forever. Then I buy the hardback.) I enjoy mystery novels as long as they are clearly more than just a procedural type of book and have interesting characters. I just read Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl and Dark Places and really loved them. While I know that it is not possible for JKR to have written something as messed up as those books are (I assume anyway), I am still really looking forward to this one, and then The Silkworm one day when that is in paperback.

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins. I have heard soooooo many people whose opinion I respect talk about how great this book is, so I'm glad I finally have it. I don't usually gravitate towards contemporary books, I'm more into sci fi/fantasy stuff, but I'm making an exception because it's possible I could love it the way I loved Eleanor & Park and/or The Fault in Our Stars. Also it's set in France, which is a place I very much desire to visit, so I'm hopeful I'll really enjoy this one.

The Glass Sentence by S.E. Grove. This book looks SO COOL. For some reason, each continent on earth exists in a different time period. I love this idea, I think it is so ridiculously original and interesting, and I haven't tried to find out more than that about this book because I don't want to risk spoiling anything for myself about it. I'm probably going to be reading this one next once I finish Dark Triumph because I've been obsessed with it since I heard about it.

It feels like I've bought more books than this recently... and I probably have but this is all I remembered at the time I decided on a whim to write this post. I am sure that if I have any intense feelings about any of these, you will be hearing all about it.

Monday, June 9, 2014

I Have An Unpopular Opinion

Let's just start with a picture of Hazel and Gus being cute. Awww, look how cute they are:

All right, now that that's out of the way... if you haven't read The Fault in Our Stars or seen the movie, avoid the rest of this post because there's going to be spoilers.

I'm not the kind of person who likes to be a hater of universally loved things just for the sake of it. But I saw the movie version of The Fault In Our Stars this weekend, like everyone else did, and I did not particularly like it. SORRY. BUT I DIDN'T.

There were a lot of really good things about it. In fact, almost everything that was in it was directly lifted from the book. It was a very faithful adaptation in terms of events and story progression.

But I did not think it was genuine. I didn't get the same feeling watching it as I did reading it. I felt like the spirit of the book was missing, or at least dulled.

And look, I know not EVERYTHING from a book can be put into the movie. I fully understand that. But the things that were missing were, I thought, things that illustrated the whole point of the story in the first place.

I'm upset that the movie glossed over Gus' illness and final days. Yes, they included the gas station scene, and it was as heartbreaking as it was in the book. But they didn't include any other scenes depicting him as actually sick. They had one scene where he was getting chemo, wherein he also made out with Hazel. There were some scenes with him in a wheelchair. But that was it. The full ugliness of cancer wasn't in this movie, in my opinion. And I know it's maybe a rating issue, like if they'd kept the scene where Hazel found Gus half coherent in a puddle of his own urine in his bedroom... I mean, that's gross. So maybe they didn't want to risk a higher rating or something by including that. But even though it's gross, it's also, you know, real life. It's a thing that happens to people when they're sick and declining the way he does in the book.

I get that they were focusing on it being a love story, and maybe if it hadn't been a book first it would have been fine. But the book exists. And the book is infinitely better, in my opinion, at showing the reality of what cancer can do to a person who has it and the people who love them.

I thought the whole ending was rushed and thus the emotional impact was lost. For me. Clearly not for everyone else in the world who saw this movie and wept for the last half hour straight. I thought Hazel's dad didn't cry enough (which was one of the things I loved about him in the book), and I was sad her mom didn't make her celebrate her half birthday or Bastille Day. Too many of Hazel and Gus' existential conversations were left out and the letter at the end was too different from the one in the book.

And I didn't like Ansel Elgort that much as Gus. SORRY. AGAIN. BUT I WAS UNDERWHELMED. (Shailene was great though.)

This is a selfish thing, because I know it was not really necessary to include both of Isaac's eulogies in the movie when the first one is really the only one that matters. But the one he gave at Gus' real funeral was what made me finally break down and weep when I was reading the book. And I think it really says a lot about who Augustus Waters really was.

"Augustus Waters was the Mayor of the Secret City of Cancervania, and he is not replaceable," he began. "Other people will be able to tell you funny stories about Gus, because he was a funny guy, but let me tell you a serious one. A day after I got my eye cut out, Gus showed up at the hospital. I was blind and heartbroken and didn't want to do anything and Gus burst into my room and shouted, 'I have wonderful news!' And I was like, 'I don't really want to hear wonderful news right now,' and Gus said, 'This is wonderful news you want to hear,' and I asked him, 'Fine, what is it?' and he said, 'You are going to live a good and long life filled with great and terrible moments that you cannot even imagine yet!'"
(p. 272)

If this had been included, I could have forgiven almost everything else I had issues with. I'm still hopeful for a deleted scene.

I mean truthfully? My favorite thing about this movie was Lidewij's outfit. Her peplum blouse and the jacket and scarf she had? I NEED THAT OUTFIT. IT WAS AWESOME.

I've seen some people say they trust that this movie is good because "John Green loves it." First of all, this is not a good reason to like a thing. Books belong to their readers, which is something he repeatedly says, and something he even wrote into this book in a semi-roundabout way with all the Van Houten stuff. So the story became mine when I read it. While I'm glad the author enjoyed the movie made out of the book he wrote, his opinion on the movie is not more valid than mine. The story is mine because that is how stories work, and I did not like this movie's interpretation of that story.

And secondly, of course John Green loves it. IT EXISTS. I would be the same exact way if anything I'd written and published got turned into a movie, even if it sucked. He's lucky in that they were very respectful of the source material, but just because they didn't butcher it doesn't mean it's automatically good. Please use your own discernment when it comes to deciding whether or not you like something instead of relying on someone else's opinion.

I also saw Edge of Tomorrow this weekend and enjoyed it infinitely more, so... there is that. I know people are trumpeting around everywhere saying LOOK, A YA MOVIE MADE MORE THAN A TOM CRUISE MOVIE ON THE SAME OPENING WEEKEND! SUCK IT TOM CRUISE! LONG LIVE JOHN GREEN AND HIS ARMY OF TEENAGERS. But poop on those people. Both movies are worth seeing and it's annoying that people are comparing their worth when they are really nothing alike whatsoever and are not exactly intended for the same audience.

Besides, blockbuster sci-fi Tom Cruise movies that are actually intelligent do not come along very often, so it's exciting that this one qualifies in that category. The last one I can think of is Minority Report. It was really fun and entertaining with an intriguing premise and good acting and an incredible soundtrack. So... see it if you don't feel like crying every time Shailene Woodley cries. (She's very good at crying.)

Sunday, May 11, 2014

A Cheap Trick and a Cheesy One-Liner

Three Marvel movies have come out since I last wrote any posts about any of them... I guess I have some catching up to do. And I don't mind going back and analyzing these particular three movies (Iron Man 3, Thor 2: The Dark World, Captain America 2: The Winter Soldier) because I deeply enjoyed all three.

So here we go.

If you read any of my previous posts about the other Iron Man movies (as apparently a ton of people have, going off what the Blogger stats page tells me), you are aware that I do not much like Tony Stark. I think he's an arrogant douche. But now that we're on the third movie focusing on him, and the fourth movie where he plays an integral role, he is by far the most developed character in the Marvel movie franchise. And that character development has been an extremely rewarding journey.

An aside before we go into that: I wish we could come up with some fresher motivations for villainy in hero stories. I'm getting very bored with the idealist who turns evil because of some real or perceived slight against them on the part of the hero. I'd also like to see less of the trope where an experiment fries the inhibitors preventing someone from acting on their villainous tendencies, the ones that were socialized into submission to some degree. It is convenient to have villains with such cut and dry motives - they rejected me and now I have to prove them wrong," or "I can literally no longer stop myself from acting on my urges due to grievous injury to my mind" - because that makes it much easier to cheer for the hero as they lay on the beatdown. But I think it is much more interesting when the villain is just as human as the hero is. (This clearly explains why I am so interested in Loki as a character - yes, I'm aware he isn't actually human, but the brother bond between him and Thor humanizes him in a figurative sense. More on this in a later post!)

In Tony's voiceover at the start of this film, he says "I'm different now. I'm a changed man." This is true, but not just because he gave up the party scene and stopped being (quite as) rude to people at galas. He's not sleeping, and when he does he has nightmares. He has an anxiety attack when two kids try to talk to him about what he did at the end of The Avengers. He's shaken. He obviously has PTSD, even though he denies it. He's trying to figure out how to be the person his actions in the previous movie made him into.

This movie strips everything away from Tony. His home and laboratory gets destroyed. His confidence in himself - possibly the only thing besides money that he's always been able to count on - is shattered. He is forced to rebuild himself from the ground up. He has to teach himself how to be himself again. (And I think you'd be hard pressed to find anyone who could play that better than Robert Downey, Jr. can.)

That scene in The Avengers where Steve asks Tony what he is without his armor - that gets answered in this movie. My favorite battle sequence in this movie is when Tony infiltrates the Mandarin's compound with all the makeshift weapons he built instead of the suit. This is him without the armor - a ruthless genius warrior. And I've seen people arguing that Steve was dumb to ask him that, that of course Tony can do all that stuff without his suit. But putting aside the fact that I will always side with Steve Rogers over Tony Stark - I don't think that at that point, when Steve asks him that question, that Tony could. He would have thought of something, naturally, he is a genius, after all. But he hadn't sacrificed himself on behalf of the entire world yet. He was not yet a person who had been faced with losing everything. He wasn't someone who would let himself be stranded in a small town in Tennessee and improvise a plan to thwart a terrorist plot with the help of a little kid.

This movie basically takes that question Steve asks and extrapolates it into a full-on journey for Tony. I'm glad this movie went there. I'm glad it didn't gloss over what Tony did in The Avengers. My favorite thing about what Marvel is doing with their franchise is that they can do this kind of character development. I really genuinely loved Iron Man 3, which I wasn't able to say about the other Iron Man movies. For the first time, I liked Tony. I'm very excited to see what he'll be like in Age of Ultron after seeing how he's grown as a person.

Another thing I very much enjoyed: Pepper. The relationship between her and Tony has evolved and matured and in this they're true partners. (This movie even passes the Bechdel Test, when Maya and Pepper talk in the hotel room! A true accomplishment for a superhero movie.) (Sarcasm. Though it was nice to have a scene like that, and I hope for more in future movies.) It was great getting to see Pepper not only in the Iron Man suit briefly, but also being ridiculously awesome at the end with her Extremis powers. I understand why she had those powers reversed, but I was almost sad about it. Maybe now that she knows how exhilarating it is to wear the suit she'll get Tony to make her one of her own. Fingers crossed.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

What We Waited For

I have been in a weird place lately... weird as in bad, but I think the light at the end of the tunnel is getting bigger and brighter and things are going to be okay. I'm not going to go into details because it's hard to talk about, but just suffice to say it really sucks when you find out people you deeply care about think of you as expendable.

Instead, I am going to talk about something that unfailingly makes me happy, something that time and time again has pulled me out of dark black holes of depression, something I can and have been able to count on to be there for me when no one else is: my beloved team. The Colorado Avalanche are in the playoffs for the first time since 2010 and have a real shot at advancing to the second round for the first time since 2008, and the ride has been heart attack-inducing and glorious.

When they made the playoffs this year, I bought tickets. For the first time, my team was making the playoffs at the same time I had a job and (marginally) expendable income to drop on some playoff tickets. I had never been to a playoff game before. I do not know precisely how expensive tickets were back in the glory days of Sakic and Roy as players (instead of Sakic and Roy as GM and coach), but probably they were exorbitantly priced due to the all-star caliber of that team. They made the playoffs for ten straight seasons, winning the Cup twice in that time. This was the time period where I became a fan, and back then it was easy to love them because they did not often let us down.

It's been different, since I moved back from college and fell deep in love with them again. They have not been so easy to love. They've had some growing pains, some rebuilding. Some utter atrociousness. I suffered through a season where they had two ten game losing streaks in a row, separated only by a win over St. Louis. That season ended up a wash - the draft pick we got out of it was Gabriel Landeskog, our current captain. Last season we finished 29th in the league and won the draft lottery and picked Nathan MacKinnon first overall, which is turning out to be one of the best decisions this franchise has ever made. These were building blocks being laid, and once we finally went out and got ourselves a real coach - Patrick Roy, who needs no introduction - the stage was set for something big to start happening.

And that's where we are now. It has been ridiculous to watch, unbelievably awesome, a turnaround I would never have imagined possible. When this season started, all I dreamed about was finally making it back to the playoffs. Everything they've done after clinching that has exceeded anyone's expectations. We won our division - granted, with help, it wouldn't have happened if St. Louis hadn't gone out and lost the division by losing six straight at the end of the year. We got home ice advantage for the playoffs. We finished third in the entire league. After only Anaheim and Boston. We went from 29th to 3rd.

So when it was time to buy playoff tickets, I did not hesitate. I was not going to miss this. I had never gone before, but this team that I was watching now? It was different. I knew them. I loved them. I'd suffered through some low, bleak times with them, and I was finally getting the chance to be there for some good times.

This is where I sat for game one.

This was the best game I've ever been to. There were great goals and it had a nail-biting finish - they were down 3-4 at the end of regulation, but with 13.4 seconds left, Paul Stastny scored to tie it, and the building went ballistic. Then, halfway through the first overtime, Stastny scored again for the win, and the roof flew off. I've never been in an environment like that, with so many ecstatic people in one place. I've never been that deliriously happy over a sports game. I've never screamed that much over a sports game, or had so many negative feelings about one only to be proven wrong, in the end, at the last second. I jumped around and flailed my white pom pom around with the rest of them, completely without irony. I went to work the next day hoarse and exhausted.

This is where I sat for game 2.

This experience was much more surreal. I have never sat this close at a real game before, a game that counted. I would never have imagined my first time sitting on the glass at an NHL game would be in the playoffs. It felt strange the whole game, like it was a dream, or just a practice or something - I'm used to seeing them that close up during practices and game warm-ups, but not for anything more than that. I only got to actually see about half the game, since the other end of the rink was obscured by the curve of the glass, and leaning forward didn't always help that. But it was an awesome, incredible experience to be that close to them, to see their faces, to hear them talking to each other.

The best part was that I was surrounded by other lady fans who also bought single tickets to go on their own. I was in good company.

Games three and four were in Minnesota and were less than fantastic. Actually, they were awful, the Avs losing them both, looking lifeless and like another team for the entirety of both. In game 4 they had only 12 shots on net the entire game. It was enraging, watching these strangers practically ruin the progress they had made so far in the series. It was tied 2 games to 2 going into game 5 last night.

And last night it was an almost identical game to game 1. Down by one near the end of regulation, tying it, then winning in overtime. There is a reason fans call them the Cardiac Kids.

This isn't technically a "Cinderella" run - they did win their division, even if it was by default, and so they're the higher seed. But it still feels like it is one. It doesn't feel like this should be happening. I'm still afraid it's all a fluke, that they'll show their true colors next season when they turn out to be as average as they were all those years under Joe Sacco. I want to believe that won't happen - and I don't honestly think it will, I think things are different now. But it's hard to know. We could end up falling hard back to earth. I do trust that our management is much more competent than it used to be, so if there are issues that arise, I believe the proper steps will be taken to remedy them.

Whatever happens in the future, though: I have this series. I have those two playoff games. I have the fact that I saw Nathan MacKinnon be amazing in his first two NHL playoff games ever. Actually, I was there for the first two playoff games of several different players' careers - so many of them had never been before, so I love that I share that mutual first with them. Whatever happens, we have this season, we'll have this division championship banner, we'll have our Calder Trophy winner, our Lady Byng winner. We have the knowledge that this team is finally in capable, trustworthy hands, and that whatever happens, it won't get as bad as it did before.

The mantra of this whole season has been "Why not us?" A lot of my non-Avs fan friends have made fun of it. I don't know why. I don't care why. The Avs are finally giving us something to believe in after a long stretch of failure. I don't want to get ahead of things and believe we could go from finishing 29th in the league to winning a Stanley Cup, but... at the same time. Why not? We beat every team in the league at least once this season. We have the players to do it, the coaching to do it. The fans to lift them there. It's not going to happen. Probably. But why not buy in? The worst that could happen is they lose, they go into the off-season having blown everyone's expectations out of the water, proving so many critics wrong. That is already a success.

There's nothing wrong with hoping. And so I am.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

How To Be a Grown Up

I went to see Lorde when she was in Denver last weekend, at the Fillmore. I had to wait in the cold in a line three blocks long and stand around for hours before she finally took the stage, surrounded by teenage girls taking thousands of selfies and never shutting up, but it was worth it.

It's weird, because even though I relate to so many of Lorde's songs and love them very dearly, I am not the target audience of those songs, necessarily. She writes them about her experiences being a teenager and probably intends them mostly for other teenagers to listen to and feel understood, to know somebody else out there has the same emotions and put words and music to them.

She played all my favorites, including the version of the Son Lux song "Easy," which was the best performance of the night because it's not a well known song, so nobody was singing along or waving their phones in the air filming her.

But her song that I love the most is "Ribs," because it describes so many things I have experienced, and so many feelings I've felt, regardless of how old I become. She told the story of why she wrote it - it was the only song she talked about all night. She said she wrote it after throwing a big party with her best friend and sister at her house after her parents went out of town. She wrote it about being a sixteen year old who is taking her first hesitant, frightened steps into being an adult. She wrote it because she was scared, and probably still feels scared, that she won't be able to go back, that she won't be able to do "kid things," as she said, that there's no return once you go down that path.

Being someone about ten years older than she is, I can confirm that you never stop feeling like that. I don't know if other people feel differently about this, but for me, at 26, I've never started to feel like an adult. I still feel the same as I did when I was in high school, I'm still just as terrified of growing up and having to function somehow in the real world. I don't think I'm ever going to figure out how to be an adult. I don't think I believe in adulthood. I don't think it exists. I don't think anybody knows how to do it.

I hope that when Lorde "grows up," she writes songs about what it feels like to still feel like a kid even when you aren't. To still not have anything at all figured out. I don't want anything bad to happen to her because I'm not cruel, but I want to hear songs from her about the raw emotions you feel once you realize that you never stop trying to figure out what the hell is going on with being alive.

The fact that Lorde is so ridiculously introspective, that she has such an awareness of basically just her existence on this planet, that she writes songs at age sixteen about things I still am scared of at age twenty-six, makes me so excited about what she's going to do in the future. I don't care how you feel about her - to me she is a jewel, and I think it was an honor to get to see her the first time she ever came to Denver.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

We Will Laugh That a Real Company Actually Made This and Thought It Was a Good Idea

I am in the market for new headphones, mainly because the ones I have are nice but hurt my ears if I wear them for long periods of time (for example, at work, where I want to tune people out for 8 straight hours). I know the kind I want to get but I was still looking around, seeing if there was anything else that caught my eye.

Well. Today, at Target, something DID catch my eye. Something stupid. Something incredibly stupid. Something so incredibly, ridiculously stupid that I almost couldn't believe it was real.

"We will laugh that women once wore men's headphones." Really. This is a REAL THING. That is their REAL SLOGAN.

I just. Okay. This is sexist, obviously, but more than that it is SO STUPID. The slogan is what makes me hate it so much. I could see an argument for "fashion headphones," I'm sure there are women out there who would totally buy headphones that look like this because they're trendy looking and different and shiny and match their favorite outfit and they just like them. I don't even care about that! That is fine! But "we will laugh that women once wore men's headphones." WHAT? Why are we taking something as gender neutral as HEADPHONES - something you use to listen to MUSIC, something EVERYBODY uses - and turning it into a men vs. women thing. Just, why. WHY. WHAT IS THE POINT OF THIS.

Here's what they look like. One is over the ear and one is earbuds. Because I know every woman needs FASHION EARBUDS that cost $99. (I know when I see a woman listening to music I always closely examine her ear buds to see if they're fashionable or not. This is something very important to consider when you mentally calculate how much that woman is worth.)

My intelligence is so insulted by this. Again, not even mainly because of the inherent sexism. It's that they apparently genuinely think that women are stupid enough to only want headphones that look like jewelry. And that if you're a woman who has been wearing regular old boring headphones that guys also buy, you deserve to be laughed at. I am pissed that this company is creating sexism in a rare place it didn't exist, solely to get women to spend money on something stupid.

I can't think of a single person who cares at all what someone's headphones look like. The purpose of headphones, in my opinion anyway, is to drown out the sound of everything around me and just let me listen to my music (or eavesdrop on you while you think that is what I am doing). I do not want my headphones to draw extra attention to me, and I especially do not want them to inspire strangers to come up and be like "wow, your headphones are pretty!" Which is the only possible reason I can think of to buy headphones that look like this. I want headphones to sound nice and feel nice on my ears. That's it.

Now, if you are a woman and you see these and are into them, that is PERFECTLY FINE. I am not judging you. And for that matter, if you are a MAN and you see these and want them for yourself? Go for it. Don't let the "women's headphones" label dissuade you. Do what you want. I actually think everyone SHOULD go out and buy these, because this company obviously really, really needs your money to help pay for a better marketing team.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Sarah + iPad = True Love

I have an important announcement to make...

I've met someone.

This someone is named iPad Air and we are in love.

I have wanted an iPad since the first one came out, which was my senior year of college. Someone I knew had one and brought it around the SUB and I looked upon it with longing, thinking "someday I will have one of my very own."

But I was always poor, and I could never justify spending that much. Then this month rolled around, and it has literally been The Worst Month Of My Life, Wherein I Have Never Been So Depressed Or Filled With Anxiety, For Reasons That Shall Go Undescribed Here, so I was just like... okay, whatever, iPad, you're coming home with me. I looked up what kind I wanted online (iPad Air, space grey, 16G with wifi and no data) and spent two weeks watching YouTube reviews of the iPad because I was so excited to finally have one. Then, last Friday, with my paycheck newly deposited into my bank account, I walked into the Apple store and walked out with my iPad.

Side note that I found amusing: the Apple store was fairly crowded with mostly... old people. Like, everyone was a grandparent in there, asking the nice young people in the blue shirts things like "so I can download books on this? How do I do that?" Meanwhile I walk in and tell them exactly what I want and they bring it to me, I pay and then leave after a total of like maybe 10 minutes, half of which were spent waiting for someone to be available to talk to me.

Another side note: in case you're an anti-Apple apologist of some sort (like half the dudes I work with, ugh just stop), please understand I did plenty of research on other tablets - specifically the Galaxy Note 10.1, and I came to the conclusion that I wanted an iPad Air because I just didn't like the other one. Sorry, Android freaks, I am perfectly happy with my Tablet For Dummies. And anyway, it wouldn't have been the same satisfaction with any other type of tablet after I spent the last four years daydreaming about having an iPad.

So far, it has been a great success. I am very happy. I have taken it with me everywhere, and I have felt revitalized working on my various writing projects. At work when I'm not busy I can write, on my breaks I can write, I can take my iPad with me more conveniently to coffee shops than I can with my computer... which is what I wanted. I wanted to take away my excuses for not writing. It's no longer inconvenient because now I always have something to write on with me. Yes, I know I could have used a pen and paper, but getting the idea down quickly is a necessity for me, or else I lose it. I don't know if that makes sense, but writing it down physically makes it harder for me to stay interested in it. And it's working, because I have made more actual progress on the novel that I've wanted to write for ages than I've made in the last couple of years combined.

So yes. My iPad and I are in love. Maybe once I've had it a little longer and spent more time enjoying it, I will do a post on the apps I find the most useful (or addicting if it's a game - this stupid Blockheads thing has taken hours of my life from me).


(Watching True Detective. This show is super good and super messed up.)

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Books That Are Good That You Should Read: The Grisha Trilogy

I just finished the first two books of Leigh Bardugo's fantastic Grisha Trilogy, Shadow and Bone and Siege and Storm. They were so good and thus warrants a blog post. I will try to actually discuss the books instead of just gushing all over everything about how much I loved them. Please understand that I am restraining myself an incredible amount to do this.

I honestly haven't read anything like this. There are elements that are similar to others, but Leigh Bardugo takes those elements and uses them to transcend them into making something completely original and great. The books take place in an ancient Russia-like country called Ravka. Something evil called the Fold, or sometimes the Unsea, has plagued their country for decades, maybe more. It is a swath of just darkness that crosses their land and inside are horrors no one wants to face. Alina Starkov, the main character, and her longtime best friend Mal (who she also happens to be in love with) are members of the First Army and at the beginning of Shadow and Bone their regiment has been chosen to attempt to cross the Fold. When they do, the volcra attack - giant winged dragon monsters who basically just hunger for human flesh and devour anyone they can. Mal gets brutally injured by one of them and is almost certainly going to die, but then Alina puts herself between him and the monster and - miraculously, a bright flash of light drives the volcra away. Nobody understands it, least of all Alina.

It turns out Alina has been a Grisha all along. The Grisha make up Ravka's Second Army. They are people who were born with gifts, special powers. There are three different kinds - Fabrikators, Corporalki, Materialki - and they all have different specialties within their category, but no one is like Alina. Alina is a Sun Summoner. She can control light. The leader of the Grisha, called only The Darkling, is essentially her opposite - he can control darkness. He sees in Alina an opportunity to control the Fold, the darkness covering their land, and - he says - remove it entirely. But of course nothing about it is that simple.

All of the characters in these books are so well-wrought. I love them, even when I hate them because of their poor choices. The love story that blossoms - well, love stories, really, there are several by the end of the second book - was the first one that I've been actually invested in since... well, probably since Harry Potter, honestly. I haven't cared this much about a cast of characters since the Harry Potter series.

I want to write a more spoilery review of these two books but I KNOW people coming across this post haven't read them and I don't want to risk ruining them for anyone. To anyone seeing this post, I implore you to find these books and read them. Jump on this train before it's cool to, because I would be shocked if they don't blow up soon. Somebody already owns the movie rights, and I hope with all my hope that they will do this story the justice it deserves.

And deffffffinitely get on board before book three comes out in June: Ruin and Rising. IT WILL BE EPIC.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Relaxing Distractions

Okay... here comes a post about something weird, but I feel like talking about it because it's something I actually think about a lot. Also, I don't care if it's weird! So here we go: ASMR, or Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response.

I first learned about this from this post on The Hairpin. It's going to sound really weird when you first look into it, if you don't know what it is already. It did to me too a little bit at first, but reading through that Hairpin article, I realized I'd experienced it before, I just didn't have a name for it. I used to watch these makeup tutorial videos on youtube by Masquerade Makeup and be just weirdly mesmerized by them... I did like seeing the makeup techniques, but I found myself drawn to the lilt of her voice - it was just so soothing to me. (She never posts anything anymore, it's so sad. I assume it's because she got a real makeup artist job, or something equally awesome for her.)

ASMR is hard to describe. The reddit dedicated to it calls it "sounds that feel good," which I think is pretty accurate. I experience it in a couple of ways - the scalp tingles are the best, but they aren't non-stop. The rest of the time it's just a very calming, soothing, often sleep-inducing effect, just this relaxing feeling. I usually watch them before bed because otherwise I find myself napping at inconvenient times. (I used to watch them at work. Not the greatest idea.) I do like to use ASMR to take my mind off of other stressful situations in my life.

So far there isn't any real scientific research about ASMR, so I think a lot of people who don't experience it think it's made up. That just makes me sorry that they don't get to experience it. Because it's really nice! My recommendation for experiencing it while watching one of the youtube videos is to focus on literally nothing else - just the sounds and any movements that are interesting to you. Sometimes I do put a video on in the background while I'm doing other things, but just as background noise to help me focus. I really only get the tingly stuff when I'm really paying attention. That's just me, though, and I'm sure for everybody it's different.

Anyway, I'm writing this post about ASMR because I think it's a really interesting phenomenon and I would like to share my favorite ASMR videos. There are a lot of different triggers for ASMR - whispering, tapping sounds, crinkling sounds, nature sounds, various role play situations... it's endless, really. So here are a few of the videos I enjoy, just as a sort of introduction to the community and what's out there. Going to view these videos on youtube will give you countless suggestions on other types of videos available out there - that's how I found almost all of these people.

Adventures of Alice in Wonderland ASMR by Maria at GentleWhispering. Maria is definitely my favorite ASMR person on youtube, I don't know if this is because she was the one interviewed for that Hairpin article and therefore the first ASMR video I ever watched was by her, but I love pretty much every video she does. Her voice is perfect for ASMR and I love how passionate she is about making these kinds of videos for people.

Head Massage part looped three times by Ardra Neala. I LOVE head massage videos like this and this is one of my favorite ones I've found.

ASMR Brushing: Face, Camera, and Binaural Mic by VeniVidiVulpes. I really love the whole brushing thing for some reason, particularly when the mic gets brushed. This is a great example of that trigger.

Binaural Spa Facial and Head Massage by Ally at ASMRequests. I love Ally so much. She puts so much into the videos she makes (with some seriously high production quality - see the first two episodes of her Departure series for evidence of this). This is one of her many different role play videos that I enjoy, but definitely check out her channel for tons more ASMR options.

I could keep going, but I think four is enough. If you are interested in learning more about this definitely go explore on youtube, there is a lot to discover.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

An Ode to Sharleen: A Panda in a Room Full of Brown Bears

I am distraught. I knew this was coming, and I obviously know it was for the best. But I am still sad to see Sharleen go. She may not have fallen in love with Juan Pabby, but I fell in love with her.

I'm not even doing a recap this week. There are two reasons for this. One, I would rather just talk about Sharleen and the fact that she is truly the special-est snowflake to ever appear on The Bachelor. And two, my DVR decided to take a nap halfway through the episode. So I didn't see the whole thing, and there is NO way I'm wasting time trying to track that down and watch the rest of it online somewhere. Not even to see Nikki tell Clare she's insane. Though I bet that was satisfying, for Nikki and the rest of us.

I have actually read a few articles about Sharleen and her awesomeness, and I have agreed with all of them. (I am ignoring all the people dissing her, their opinions are irrelevant and wrong.) Whatever you might think about her going on The Bachelor in the first place, she was fairly revolutionary considering the caliber of the other ladies who audition to be on it. I am not going to hate on them for their choices, but I think it is pretty clear that by and large they are not what you would call "particularly smart." Like... at all. There are obviously exceptions, but I think for the most part even the exceptions go along with the format of the show regardless of their true feelings, not wanting to cause drama... or worse, risk having a bunch of die hard fans post mean things about you on the internet.

Sharleen was different. First of all, she's an independent career woman - traveling the world as an opera singer. Awesome. Second, she geeked out an appropriate amount when she got to go to Bilbo's house. Third, she is the one through whom I discovered the best lip stain in the history of ever. And fourth, Sharleen didn't let herself get carried away by a creepy, atypical and traditionally incredibly unsuccessful process for "falling" "in" "love." Instead of going along with everything and soaking up the attention and experience of being on a reality show, Sharleen did the smart thing and removed herself from the situation when she finally came to the conclusion that it wasn't the right thing for her. She was so honest about everything and it was SO REFRESHING.

This article puts accurately into words exactly what it was I liked so much about Sharleen:

Producers had to at least expect some meta-commentary when they cast Sharleen. This is clearly who she is. Plus, it's hard to deny that Sharleen's admissions also won over a certain demographic of more cynical viewers, who finally found a "real" contestant they could identify with.

Like, I started watching this season of The Bachelor as a joke, and that is still mainly why I'm watching it because I find it basically impossible to take seriously... but Sharleen's presence was a breath of fresh air for a hater like me. Sharleen WAS real. Her comments and conduct on the show is proof that every so often, reality TV casts someone who is an actual human person with independent thoughts and feelings and isn't afraid to demonstrate that. She didn't let herself get brainwashed by the show or the other people on it. I knew I was going to love her when Juan Pabby gave her the first impression rose and she was like "..............oh. Okay. Sure." Which is probably EXACTLY HOW I WOULD HAVE REACTED. What I'm trying to say is, I would have given Sharleen MY first impression rose, too. But my FIR is the kind that means "you are way too cool of a person to be here."

At the end, when she left, she said, "I wish I was a little dumber. It would be so simple." Well Sharleen... that may be true (it is), but what makes you so great is the fact that you aren't dumb, at all. I think a lot of people wouldn't have been brave enough to go through with leaving the way you did. You really do know what you want out of life, and you know that that ISN'T falling in love and getting engaged to a guy you competed with 26 other women to spend time with over a way too short period of time. I don't know what exactly it was that compelled you to sign up for the show in the first place, maybe a dare, or you did it just to see if you could get them to pay for you to travel around the world for a while (that is why I would do it), but I'm glad you did. I hope a lot of girls and women who watch The Bachelor learn from your example how important it is to respect yourself and listen to what your heart is really telling you to do.

So here is to you, Sharleen, my favorite reality TV panda. I don't know what you plan on doing next in your life, but I hope it's fulfilling, I hope you're happy, and I hope I get to see lots more awesome pictures on your instagram of it. I will be following and wishing the whole time we were best friends.

Monday, February 10, 2014

The Bachelor: Where the Most Undeserving People Ever Get to Go to Hobbiton

via.
(Everyone enjoy this picture, it was the creepiest promo image I saw in my Google image search.)

It seems unfair that people as dumb as the ones on The Bachelor get to go to New Zealand, which is what I imagine heaven looks like. All I'm going to be able to think about this entire episode is how badly I want to go there. They are TORTURING me with these gorgeous air views. Ugh. SOMEDAY. Juan Pabby ruins the moment by talking about how "it's getting harder" because there are only eight women left and I guess he has feelings for all of them or whatever. According to him, New Zealand is the perfect place to fall in love and find love.

"To get to be in New Zealand, dating, just, this wonderful man... it's incredible," says Chelsie. "Look at the WATERFALL!" someone else says. They're staying in some special exclusive resort called the Huka Lodge and here is their website because I am already planning my trip. (DO NOT look at the page with the prices. It will make you weep.) Seriously though, if I got eliminated on this episode, I would rip up the plane ticket home they gave me and just stay there forever.

"New Zealand is definitely a romantic place," says Clare. "And for some reason, there's kinda that little dark cloud over it." All this from last week again. I had somehow managed to forget it all, but it's all rushing back to me... the late night ocean sexytimes, the regretting of bad decisions, the tears... Clare wants to feel secure and like Juan Pabby still wants her there. Let's all prepare for more crying over this.

Clare reads the new date card for Andi, who gets a one-on-one finally, and then immediately we cut to a talking head of Clare whining that SHEEEEEE didn't get the first one-on-one date with Juan Pabby in New Zealand. Because after last week you haven't had ENOUGH time with him. Come on, girl, stop hogging the Juan Pabby. Clare says "things might erupt in New Zealand." Meanwhile Andi is super happy and adorable and excited. Let's just ignore Clare the Debbie Downer and let Andi have this for once.

Cassandra is jealous of Andi. She is away from her son "dating a guy who is dating other women too" and she feels like maybe she is wasting her time. Well, you got to go to New Zealand for free, so I would be leaning towards "not a waste of time" if I were you, but WHAT DO I KNOW. She is talking to Renee about all her fears. Renee is so nice. She would be an amazing sister wife.

Andi hopes to have a breakthrough with Juan Pabby today. Juan Pabby says he's always liked all the times he's talked to Andi. "Andi's got it going on," he says. He is wearing a scarf I like that he does not deserve. He says "New Zealand is the perfect place for both of us." New Zealand is the perfect place for EVERYONE. You aren't special.

They get in a boat and ride around. At one point in the river they stop and go swimming. Andi is maybe the first lady in Bachelor history to wear a one-piece and I kind of love her for it. This place looks like it is freezing and I have no idea how they thought this was a good idea. They are like crawling through crevices and caves in the water and all I can think is, "how did they film this? What did it look like when the camera guy was trying to do this???"

"We're literally like in a tunnel between caves. But it's beautiful," Andi adds, because they're taken out back and shot if they don't say something good about the dates they're forced to go on. They end up at a magical waterfall. This place better be the Fountain of Youth for how hard it was for them to get to it. They make out underneath it. Juan Pabby declares her to be "incredible." His swimming trunks look like they're going to fall down. Yes I was looking.

Now they're having dinner in front of a geyser. "I think dinner is going to blow our minds," Juan Pabby reads from cue card. The geyser does go off and they do get sprayed by it. We watch the geyser go off for like a full minute. They get totally soaked and their dinner is ruined, so this was poorly planned.

A group date card arrives and everyone's name is on it except Clare's. "Huh? I get a one-on-one?" Clare says, pretending to be surprised. Everyone else haaaaaaates her right now because she's the first one to get a second one-on-one date with him.

Juan Pabby and Andi are talking about their feelings and I'm bored. They tell each other they're glad to be there. He gives her the rose, which he had zipped up in his jacket. Then they make out.

Group date. A Range Rover drives them out to the middle of a field, where Juan Pablo is waiting. "Beautiful scenery, and Juan Pablo definitely adds to the beauty," Kat blasphemes. (This is NEW ZEALAND. Juan Pabby does NOT COMPARE.) They try to have a picnic but the wind is making them all miserable.

"This is my absolute favorite place I've ever been," Chelsie says, standing in the field next to a cow. She says it reminds her of Ohio. I'm sorry, nothing against Ohio, but if you're going to NEW ZEALAND and comparing it to Ohio, you have problems.

Now they're getting in these giant balls and rolling down a hill, and I have to say it does look like it would be extremely fun. Sharleen is wearing the most ridiculous one piece bathing suit I've ever seen, it's white and has a cutout back and like... fringe hanging off the bust. It is terrible. Sharleen, I love you. You know that. But what were you thinking. (However I am very amused that two of my favorite people on this season wore one pieces in the same episode.)

Oh. Oh no. They're going to the damn Shire for their group date cocktail party. This... this is such a betrayal. How could we have let this happen??? No. This is. No. NO. UGHHH THIS IS SO BAD. I CAN'T WATCH THIS. My only consolation is that Sharleen understands how cool it is. But that is not enough. I am going to be so much more bitter and crankier for the rest of this episode due to this horrible show sullying Bilbo's house.

Obligatory "I love kissing Juan Pablo" commentary from Renee. She calls Bag End "the Hobbit house." I hate her now. Nikki tells him she's falling for him but she's scared but it's worth it. They make out. With visible tongue. Outside Bag End. I hate them. Inside they're analyzing whether group date roses are different from one-on-one date roses or rose ceremony roses and I hate them all.

Sharleen gets some one-on-one time and he just starts making out with her. So clearly, as if any clarification was necessary, this relationship is purely physical. They start trying to talk and it's insanely awkward and hilarious. Sharleen has a lot of questions! She wants answers about their relationship and he just wants to make out. "Just live this, enjoy this, make the best out of this," he tells her. Okay, but if you're looking for someone to MARRY, maybe you should have conversations with some substance. Sharleen seems to just decide it's whatever and keeps making out with him.

Inside they start calling the rose "my precious." This cannot get any worse. Cassandra: "That's what I remember from the movie! When I watched the movie I remembered that their houses are like, under the hill." Okay, yes it can. THESE PEOPLE DON'T DESERVE TO GO TO HOBBITON. Ugh I can't even listen to whatever feelings Cassandra is throwing at Juan Pabby, I'm too angry. Something about him being a great guy or something, WHO CARES.

Juan Pabby is pontificating on who is going to get the rose. Just HURRY UP so we can get out of Hobbiton before my head explodes. Renee says she would love to get the rose but she thinks Cassandra should get it because it's her birthday and she's such a great girl and she's "been someone that I have been rooting for." Sharleen gets the rose because Juan Pabby likes making out with her. Not that I can blame him. She makes the best lipstick choices ever.

Immediately after Sharleen gets the rose, Juan Pabby asks Cassandra to go talk. He says "you're one of my special ones." Um, creepy. He gives her a bunch of compliments and then tells her he's sending her home because he doesn't see a future with her and he doesn't want her to wait two extra days to see her son. Which is kind of nice of him. I guess. Renee is going to cry so hard when she finds out they don't get to be sister wives.

After he puts Cassandra in the van, they show Juan Pabby wandering around with his umbrella and it's very dramatic and some stupid music plays.

"I'm still having a hard time with what happened in Vietnam," Clare says. You and many other people. She says she had her feelings hurt and never meant to disrespect anyone's daughter and then again says the thing she said last week about wanting to crawl back inside her turtle shell. Clare is a turtle.

They sit by some water and talk about it all again and I can't pay attention to any of it because the camera guy cannot hold the camera straight. It is so distracting. No one needs the shaky cam effect on this show. "So far, Juan Pablo did make an effort to make things better. Or to want to make things better." He made an effort to want to make things better. Okay. "Where are our boundaries?" Clare asks. "Don't have sex on TV" seems like a good place to start. I get where she's coming from on all of this - Juan Pabby was definitely sending her some mixed signals - but they are both idiots. Sometimes, the "boundaries" should be obvious, and this is one of those times. Can we please just move on.

My favorite part of this season (besides Sharleen and her lipstick choices) is when Juan Pabby doesn't understand a phrase. This episode he didn't know what "cut to the chase" meant, or what "I would just bolt" meant, or the word "frazzled." He always makes them explain what they're talking about and it's just... endearing. Even though I hate him, and everyone else on this show (except Sharleen).

"I get hot talking about Clare," Juan Pabby says. Yeah, definitely still hate him. The rest of their date is them sitting in a living room talking and while I prefer that kind of date personally, I don't care to watch someone else be on that kind of date on a reality TV show.

Here to drag the episode on even longer, Chris Harrison comes and sits down with Juan Pabby to recap the episode so far. It is boring.

Cocktail party. ALERT ALERT SHARLEEN IS WEARING THAT LIPSTICK I LOVE AGAIN. I care about nothing else.

Nikki and Juan Pabby talk and he is apparently excited by their conversation because he says in a talking head: "Nikki, watch out." Please stop being so creepy and weird, Juan Pabby.

Chelsie or Kat could be going home this rose ceremony so now we are subjected to both of them trying to outdo each other by trying to be the one who opens up the most. Come on, ladies, clearly he is going to pick the one who promises him the most children. Kat seems very confident about her chances when she says "I think it's gonna be Chelsie going home tonight."

Rose ceremony. Nikki gets a rose, Renee gets a rose, and........ CHELSIE GETS A ROSE. Hahahahaha. Kat. This is why you never say "I am totally sure that other girl is going home and not me."

Back at the cocktail party, Sharleen is having a breakdown of some kind. She feels guilty that she gets to stay on the show when girls who like him more have to go home, I guess. She says if she doesn't see herself ending up with Juan Pablo after another week, she's leaving. NOOOOOO no Sharleen, don't leave me here with these people!

Okay, over the credits they show them chasing a bunch of sheep on the group date, and then they get into what Juan Pabby describes as a "sheep poop fight," which looked more like Juan Pabby picking up poop and throwing it at them. ABC blurs out the poop in his hand. Renee is the only one who throws the poop back. THESE PEOPLE WERE IN BILBO'S HOUSE. I AM SO DONE.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Young Adult Dystopian Book Club - Crewel and Altered

I read Crewel, by Gennifer Albin, and its sequel Altered. I'm not going to bother doing a second post about the second book because I absorbed them both like they were one book. This trilogy is what we call "high concept," which is just another way of saying "difficult to explain." Here's the summary from Amazon for Crewel:

Gifted with the ability to weave time with matter, she’s exactly what the Guild is looking for, and in the world of Arras, being chosen to work the looms is everything a girl could want. It means privilege, eternal beauty, and being something other than a secretary. It also means the power to manipulate the very fabric of reality. But if controlling what people eat, where they live, and how many children they have is the price of having it all, Adelice isn’t interested.

When I first looked at this book on there, I was totally bewildered halfway through the first sentence of that. Without context, it really doesn't make any sense. But I was intrigued anyway. After reading it, it makes slightly more sense, but I still feel like I might just not be smart enough to get it. I've been trying to write this post for several days now but I keep putting it off because I don't know how to talk about this book or explain what it's about, so here's my best attempt.

The story takes place in a world controlled by women called Spinsters, who have the ability to weave on magical looms things in and out of existence. They're in charge of distributing food rations, for example, and when someone is sick and dying they are the ones who process "removal requests" - meaning they weave that person out of existence. Only girls have the ability to become Spinsters, and every girl gets tested for the ability as a teenager. If they show any ability they are chosen to go to one of four Coventries, where the looms are located. They never have contact with their families ever again. The main character, Adelice, proves to be more gifted than anyone has been in a long time, and she gets selected to become the next Creweler, because she can weave things without needing a loom. Naturally, there are plenty of behind the scenes politics discovered as the story progresses and nothing is as simple as they've always been told.

There, that's all you're getting. Everything else is too complicated to explain. I was going to do a more spoilery review than this but it's TOO HARD. If you want to know more, you'll just have to read it yourself.

I started out really in love with this story. The world is really creatively imagined and the characters are well developed, too. There's a love triangle (because of course there is) (it doesn't really come into focus until the second book) and while this can be annoying, I didn't think it was in this story at all, and I genuinely don't know who she's going to end up with, if either of them. My only problem with the story is that... the first book is all exposition - Adelice is searching for all the secrets of Arras that she doesn't know. I didn't have an issue with this in the first book. I can really enjoy a book with lots of exposition if it's interesting and comes with the promise of action. And it did, a little bit. But then... the second book was also really heavy on the exposition. And I recognize that it was all necessary information, but after a while it felt tedious, and it made me start to dislike the characters when I didn't want to because they weren't doing anything.

I am hoping the third book resolves these concerns for me - I think it will because of where Altered left off. The conclusion to this trilogy has the potential to be totally epic and I'm definitely interested in seeing where it goes. If you want to read a totally original sci-fi story idea (the second book even reveals some alternate history stuff which brought a whole new level of cool to it) and are okay with a heavy amount of exposition, this series will make you happy.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Growing Into Your Soulmate: the Ron and Hermione Story

via.

This whole thing has been causing me A LOT of consternation the past few days. And it still is. I almost started twitter ranting about it (for a second time) but my thoughts were too jumbled and complicated for 140 character segments so we're word vomiting everything into a blog post. This is going to be rambly and all over the place. Here we go.

I was on board with Ron/Hermione as a couple from the beginning, when I started reading the books at age 12. It was obvious to me. It never even occurred to me that a different outcome could happen, and in the end I felt so vindicated that I was right. I wouldn't have cared so much if there hadn't been SO MANY PEOPLE trying to say something else was going to happen. I wasn't fully involved in the Ship Wars but I was also not an innocent civilian. I remember arguing with other girls in my high school about it, people who wanted Harry/Hermione to happen (or Harry/Luna, which was less upsetting to me, though still wrong). So when the initial article about this interview Emma Watson did with J.K. Rowling came out and said "ROWLING REGRETS RON/HERMIONE RELATIONSHIP," I was livid. The full excerpt is, of course, much less cut and dry than that - it says she thought Ron and Hermione would probably need counseling but that they would ultimately be fine after Ron got over his insecurities and Hermione worked on not being so over-critical. Which is fine, and makes sense, and doesn't ruin anything for me because lots of people go to counseling if they have to, and that doesn't make them weak.

My thing is... what difference does it make if you've thought about the other ways you could have written the books and decided "oh, maybe those two characters would have worked better together"? I'm pretty sure every writer in existence has looked back at something they wrote and wanted to go back and edit. I am not shocked to see JKR is not immune to that. But when it's something like THIS, I REALLY don't want to know. Why, why, why did she even bother telling people about wondering if it would have worked better a different way? She KNOWS this is a weirdly sensitive topic for MANYYYYY Harry Potter fans. It did nobody any good to dredge up this argument again. Literally no one needed this. IT'S UPSETTING. And I realize it's probably crazy to be this invested in the relationship between two figments of our collective imaginations, but it is what it is.

I will stand by this: whatever JKR has decided to say now about the books, it is irrelevant. All that matters is what is actually in the books. Ron and Hermione got married, had kids, and were happy. You know how I know they were happy? IT SAYS SO IN THE BOOK. That's all it takes for me. THEY ARE FINE!!!

All that being said. I, too, have some perspective on this now, and I have to say that if the people in the books were REAL, it would not surprise me at all if Ron and Hermione had failed, or at least had some troubles along the way. I still have a hard time believing something between Hermione and Harry could have ever developed, as that would require Ron to be dead, because Harry would never do that to him otherwise. It would also require Harry and Hermione to un-adopt each other as siblings. Because that is how they saw each other through the entire series. If JKR thinks otherwise she is as delusional as she once said the Harry/Hermione shippers were. That's right, I went there.

Now if she's like, "I could have written those two characters through the books differently and in an alternate universe version of the story, Harry and Hermione could have ended up together," that is something different. However, that would require fundamentally revamping a very important relationship in the books and for me, really ruining it. Hermione is Harry's family. As Rainbow Rowell, one of my favorite authors (and someone who had a very similar reaction to this whole thing as I did), said on twitter: "it was amazing and beautiful that Harry and Hermione loved each other and needed each other without wanting to kiss." I don't want to see that change.

But I could see Ron and Hermione's bickering being a real problem. I've had that kind of relationship before, and if that is all you do all the time, eventually it stops being playful and funny. You just wake up one day to the realization that this person is no longer someone you like or want to be around. It doesn't matter how long you've known them or how close you were. The bickering becomes malicious and it hurts you and then everything is over, and you cut them out of your life as a means of self-preservation. So if that's the kind of relationship Ron and Hermione continued to have after Deathly Hallows, YEAH, I could see them not working out.

What I don't think is really being considered, though, is the fact that we didn't get to see whatsoever how the trio was changed emotionally by the events of that last book. We have NO IDEA what they were like immediately after that, or in their twenties, or as actual adults, or anything. It's just... here they are at 17, then here they are in the epilogue in their late thirties. That is a lot of time being glossed over. OBVIOUSLY they are not going to stay exactly like they were as teenagers for the rest of their lives. They are already different people at the end of Deathly Hallows than they were at the beginning. They went through a LIFETIME in that book. And I'm sure when we meet up with them again in the epilogue, they're STILL processing that stuff. You don't just get over an experience like that. Maybe - MAYBE - after 19 years, you're sort of coming to terms with it. Maybe. But that stuff is going to stay with them for their rest of their lives. Ron and Hermione might need counseling, sure, but they are most assuredly not the only ones who do. EVERYONE IN THIS SERIES NEEDS COUNSELING AFTER EVERYTHING THEY WENT THROUGH.

Here is what we know for certain: Harry married Ginny, which I have no problems with (though I do wish Ginny had gotten more "onscreen" character development, but she makes Harry happy and if he deserves anything after all he went through, it's happiness, so whatever - Harry's relationship was honestly always the one I cared about the least). They had kids with terrible names (Albus Severus, REALLYYYYY). We know Ron and Hermione got married, too, and they also have kids (with better names). They are all happy, sending their kids off to Hogwarts and not dealing with any dark wizard overlords.

There are a million things we don't know. We don't know, for example, that maybe Ron and Hermione broke up for a while, after Hermione graduated from Hogwarts and Ron went on to be an Auror. Maybe she went and travelled the world - she would have to go get her parents from Australia where she hid them from Voldemort, after all. And once her parents were re-settled wherever they live in Britain, I hope she went on a tour of the world, Apparating all over the place, meeting new people and absorbing everything like the knowledge sponge she is. I imagine this would prepare her quite sufficiently for her future career in politics and eventual Minister of Magic.

Meanwhile, Ron would have thrown himself into becoming the best Auror he could possibly be, because that's the only thing that could take his mind off Hermione dumping him (because of course that's how it happened). He probably lived with Harry and Ginny, who I imagine got married as soon as possible. I could see Ron working longer hours than anyone and becoming the best Auror in the department, even better than Harry, and first he does it because he thinks it will impress Hermione one day but then he realizes he really does love his job and the work. Harry of course tells him he's working too hard, maybe tries to take him out for drinks or something once in a while, and Ron goes, but his heart isn't really in it, because his heart is travelling around the world with someone else.

I think they both would have grown up. A lot. And when Hermione came back, maybe a year or so later, she would have asked Ron to meet up for butterbeers, and he would maybe have hesitated, just for a second. What if she just wants to reminisce for a bit and then leave again? Or what if she found someone else? What if he's just going to get his heart broken all over again? I think he would consider not going. He would go, but he would have to think about it. And meanwhile Hermione is steeling herself, expecting HIM to have moved on, trying not to think about that as a possibility but also trying to be okay with it if he has, because she knows from experience that there's plenty more out there for her if Ron says no. She just doesn't want him to.

And so they meet up, and it's formal at first, a little awkward, but then they see each other again, really see each other, and see everything that has changed and, more importantly, the things that haven't. Everything falls into place, and they realize - yes, this is right. This is what I was missing. This is what I want. And then they're together. For good this time. And they take it slow, and they communicate with each other like adults, and he makes her laugh, and she keeps him on his toes, and they're happy.

And that is the closest I will ever get to writing Harry Potter fan fiction.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Under the Gunn: Vampires, Tornadoes and Voodoo Priestesses

Under the Gunn is hilarious. I am loving this show more every week. This is the first time I paid attention to the James Bond homage that is the opening credits, and I love it. This week's episode is called "Unconventional Vampire," and they start out in a spooky cemetery looking place with a bunch of ridiculous dramatic music. Now Sarah Hyland from Modern Family appears. Because she's in that Vampire Academy movie? I guess that makes sense, because we can't have a TV show on Lifetime that isn't also a giant advertisement.

Apparently they are supposed to take inspiration from the "vampire land" that they've created for them, a bunch of like coffins and chains and I don't even know what. A bunch of bolts of fabric just lying around.

"This is so up your alley," the guy who looks like taller Justin Bieber tells someone (I think his name is Sam). I don't know what kind of person would take "you like making weird vampire clothes" as a compliment, but apparently that is the person this girl is because she says "Oh yeah, I think it was like just what I needed." She says she is using "glitter branches" because she "was really inspired by the trees in the night."

Isabelle is my favorite. She is the one whose outfit my friend was obsessing over the other week. She also is crazy and says the weirdest things and pretty much I hope she wins just so she is on this show as long as possible. "I have no clue what I'm going to do. I just decided to let the materials speak to me. I'm just thinking about tornadoes, and things like that are scary." I love her.

Mentor the mentors time with Tim. Nick says he is going to make a conscious decision not to be so interfering with his contestants' designs, which is good considering he basically made that one girl's dress and it was not great. Okay, I have nothing against Nick, but I'm confused why he's a mentor. Mondo and Anya, whatever you think about them, both won either their season or an All Star season. Nick... I don't think he even made it to fashion week. NOT THAT I COULD DO BETTER I'm just saying, they could have gotten someone else who would have been just as entertaining. Like, say, Christian Siriano. Or someone like that.

Tim tells Mondo he needs to be more critical instead of just being emotionally supportive. Tim tells Anya she doesn't have to change anything.

Critiques with the designers! "I wanted to kind of do this tribal voodoo priestess kind of idea," Asha says. O...kay. Mondo tells her so far it looks sloppy. Asha is now frustrated because she's been working on something ugly. It sounds like she is resenting Mondo for telling her the truth. Mondo in general seems to be pretty "blah" about this challenge and you can see him in basically all three of his critiques going "thank God I don't have to do this."

This guy on Anya's team is making a motorcycle jacket that is either going to be hideous or awesome. Anya gives him some really good advice about imagining your ideal client at age 35 so you don't skew your clothes too young-looking and then Tim says in voiceover how great she is at being a mentor. Anya is apparently good at everything she attempts. This other guy on her team is making a really ugly dress with chains that are PLASTIC hanging off the back and somehow Tim and Anya are like... in love with it. Tim goes, "it's rich." WHAT??? Tim. COME ON.

Nick has the weirdest people on his team, which for THAT I definitely appreciate him. This guy Oscar is making a "pop rock vampire" look. Nick says it looks like a Rihanna concert and Tim says it looks "matador." Isabelle has no idea what she's doing, still, and Nick and Tim are like "...." She has nothing to show them. "Nick is talking, I can't really concentrate... We're not flowing in the same ocean." Isabelle, don't you dare fail on me, I need you to not get eliminated please. During the model fittings she has a gross skirt made and Nick is like "this makes her hips look big, no one wants that" and Isabelle is like "but this is my signature look, this is what makes the dress." Nick: "......................." Isabelle's days are numbered and I am heartbroken.

Here comes some fabricated drama between Michelle and Asha. Michelle is like "this is kind of cute... not the best thing you've ever made" and Asha's like "ummmmmmmmm well I actually really love it so go away." Except she probably doesn't really "love" it, she's just pissed. Meanwhile Michelle's dress looks very spider queen, so maybe she shouldn't talk.

"Use the Francesca's accessory wall very thoughtfully." I would steal everything on the Francesca's accessory wall. I love the Francesca's accessory wall.

Isabelle wants to remake her dress again. Blake is like "it's too late." Which it is. The runway is in an hour. Get it together, Isabelle. Then they have to go to the runway and Tim literally has to tell her to stop running with scissors. Then he's like "NO. ISABELLE, NO. NO! NO!" which is probably what it sounds like when Tim yells at his dog for pooping in the house.

The designers getting critiqued on the runway today: Oscar, Isabelle (NOOOO), Nicholas, Brady, Asha, and Michelle.

Oscar: "My inspiration was blood orthodox Jewish vampire." Um, okay. The judges really like his outfit. Oscar apparently finished his well-made outfit early and swept the workroom and helped other people with his free time.

Brady: His outfit is inspired by someone's vampire mom who is dropping their vampire daughter off at vampire academy. Translates as "boring." The judges hate it. The motorcycle jacket looks fine except he sewed "fangs" into the shoulders which makes it hideous. Maybe he will take the fall instead of Isabelle with producer intervention.

Asha: Reiterates her voodoo priestess idea. The judges love it. It does look pretty cool.

Nicholas: That thing with the chains on it. Hahaha, they hate it. I feel vindicated for hating it the first time.

Isabelle: I have no idea how to describe what she made but they say it looks like "Lady Gaga but not like in the good way." "I wanted to have fun," Isabelle says. They think the dress underneath is "superbly well made" but the red "inflatable" thing around it is ugly. Nick says "None of this is my fault, I am SORRY."

Michelle: "I really wanted to make her into a creature of the night." The judges love it. "I'm obsessed with this, it's like a work of art," says the girl from Vampire Academy. The Marie Clare lady says the neck piece looks like an "old Christmas decoration" and everyone else is scandalized. The other lady says it has a "nymphy feel." Okay.

Asha or Michelle is going to win, so I guess why they pulled in that fake drama from earlier between them. Brady or Nicholas is getting eliminated and since they're both on Anya's team, they're letting Anya pick who goes home. SOMEHOW ISABELLE IS SAFE. They're like "you didn't do great but at least you were creative." WORKS FOR ME.

Anya sends Brady home. This is what you get for sewing fangs into a jacket. Although this is probably Anya's fault for giving him advice that backfired. Michelle wins with her old Christmas decoration neck piece. Boring. Next week, Isabelle is still causing drama, so it's going to be awesome.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Newsflash: Reality Show Contestants Make Bad Choices

I have decided, against/in spite of any kind of judgment, to start doing recaps of The Bachelor. The reasons for this are... this show is hilariously dumb, and I want to blog more. For the record, I do not typically watch this show, or at least I have not done so recently. I used to watch it all the time, and then I stopped because... it's fake... and superficial... and often pretty sexist! But I was tricked into watching this season by Elizabeth, who was like "Sarah, watch The Bachelor with me so we have something to laugh at" and I said "okay" but now she's not watching it and I still am. It's fine though. Whatever. I'm over it.

So! For those of you who are uninitiated, the bachelor this season is Juan Pablo something with a G, and he used to play soccer and is hot and has a daughter. That's all you really need to know. He will heretofore be referred to as Juan Pabby, which is a nickname my friend Maryssa made up on Twitter (and I would link you to her over there but her account is locked, because following her is a privilege, not a right). Anyway, she knows I'm stealing it, so it's cool.

This week, we start off flying from Korea to Vietnam. Clare, resident genius (who, lest we forget, shouted "Korea?! I don't even own a KIMONO!" last week), tells us all about it: "Korea had it's beauty, but this is like, nature. It's water, it's trees, it's the sun. It's beautiful."

The first one on one date goes to Renee. "Today is a really big day! It really is life changing!" So much hyperbole on this show. Let's keep our cool, Renee. Though this does probably mean you'll get to make out with him, so maybe your celebration is justified.

Renee thinks Vietnam is the perfect setting for a first kiss. Renee also thinks Vietnam is the perfect setting to fall in love. Apparently it is the perfect setting for a lot of things. They are going to a store to have a Vietnamese dress made for Renee, because if it's one thing this show does really well, it's sending a bunch of clueless white people to other countries to appropriate their culture in the name of "putting yourself out there." Renee says she gets smiley when she thinks about all the fabrics in the store. The person in the store measures Renee's bust and Juan Pabby goes "ooooh!" because even though he's pretty, he's also really, really stupid. Renee thinks it's cute, because of course she does.

After they go shopping and buy presents for their respective kids, Renee and Juan Pabby sit on a boat, not kissing, and Renee is clearly sitting there the whole time thinking "WHY. WHY AREN'T WE KISSING. WHY!!!" Then they go to a restaurant and Renee seems surprised that they're the only ones in there, and that there's just a table set for two. She must not have ever watched this show before. They make inane conversation, then... Juan Pabby blows air on her? I guess because she's feeling hot?

Meanwhile at the house they get another date card and it's the rest of them except Nikki. Andi has a minor meltdown because what if Juan Pabby doesn't really like her?!

Here is what Juan Pabby says to Renee, verbatim, when he gives her the rose: "Ay, Renee. What can I say? Such a good date. Look at you. Looking great. I love your dress. You look so nice in your dress. Really good. It's fun spending time with you. Get to know you. Learn more. Know more than just talking about our kids. I like it. I like it a lot. Will you accept this rose?" You know what, I'm really getting Just Friends vibes from these two, but what do I know.

Time for the group date. They're riding around in boats, I don't know. Juan Pabby is in the boat with Clare and they're being morons and making out in front of everyone and I sense incoming drama. "It's basically eight of us and a one on one date," says someone.

Okay, now they're going to some random Vietnamese family's house to eat dinner? Trying to determine if this is staged or not. My gut says yes, of course, but Chelsie's total astonishment at this development is throwing me off. But then again, she is totally astonished at literally every single thing that happens to the point where it feels like she has never been allowed outside her house before, so maybe that's not a good way to measure this.

Now Andi is forcing Juan Pabby to have a heart to heart with her about how she's never had a one on one date and he tells her just to trust him. "When he said trust me, I felt completely calm, at ease, he didn't even have to say anything else." Okay. You seem very easily satisfied, but okay.

Clare is totally unbearable and Juan Pabby is OBSESSED with her. Oh man, he's taking her to his personal suite. Really, Juan Pabby? Do you not realize the impression this is giving? Oh, now they're making out in a pool. While eight girls are waiting around for him downstairs. No big deal.

Okay, finally a moment to talk about Sharleen, my favorite. She is my favorite because she is intelligent and so far out of Juan Pabby's league that they aren't even on the same planet. "I need to know that he sees me as a panda in a room full of brown bears," she says, and this is adorably weird and I LOVE HER and I DO NOT WANT HER TO WIN. You deserve better, Sharleen! Which I think she knows, which is why she keeps saying things like "well there's a lot of PHYSICAL chemistry..."

Clare gets the group date rose ARE YOU KIDDING MEEEEE. GAG. Okay, I feel like I'm giving the impression of caring who wins... what I care about is certain people NOT winning. Clare told Juan Pabby "you taste like snow!" the first time they kissed. Just, no. She must not win. Though they would undoubtedly deserve each other, if it got to that point.

Now Clare is sneaking up to Juan Pabby's suite to get him to go swimming in the ocean with her. This is what you get for showing her where you sleep, Juan Pabby. She will stalk you forever now. There is no escape from Clare. Now they're swimming around in the ocean. "We got a little wild" - okay, Juan Pabby, we don't need to know. Gross. And stop it with your eyebrows, Clare.

Unfortunately, a tsunami does not come and sweep them away. Instead, they dry hump off in the distance (and possibly more but again, GROSS).

Blegh, okay, let's try to wash that out of our eyeballs and move on to the date with Nikki. Juan Pabby, what are your thoughts on this date? "Last night I had a great night with Clare - " STOP. STOP TALKING IN THAT VOICE.

Okay. So Nikki and Juan Pabby's date is... repelling into a pit, down to a cave called Hell. SOUNDS ROMANTIC. "I am willing to take risks for love," Nikki says. Right, this is just like that. Then she says "I either live, or I die, or I poop my pants." Nikki is cool with me guys. I do feel pretty bad for her, pretty much all of her dates with him have been things she has hated. "Even though we're in Hell, being with Juan Pablo in here feels like heaven." Okay, whatever. The rest of their date is boring. She gets a rose. At the end they make out and Juan Pabby is like "This is a potential wife right here." Which makes me feel icky.

Time for the cocktail party. Looks like some drama is about to go down. Juan Pabby comes and sits down with them and it's hella awkward. Then Clare makes it worse by giving a toast - "Cheers to finding love, being loved, and making love!" Renee finally gets to make out with Juan Pabby, so that sexual tension is temporarily released until next week when she starts talking about wanting to suck face again.

So now Juan Pabby is taking some alone time to experience some guilt and man pain over banging Clare at the beach. "Maybe I made a mistake the other night." He is thinking perhaps they went too far. Now he and Clare are talking and he's telling her it wasn't fair - he says "I'm too fair" and that's why he feels bad about doing the sex with her while he's dating ten other girls. Now Clare is like "I feel silly." And she's also basically like "but it's about how you feel! We need to just do what we feeeeeeeeeeeel!" She continues to feel things at him. He continues to be like "we shouldn't have done it because my daughter is going to watch this" which I'm not sure why THAT is going to happen because she's like 5. Now Clare is crying and this is way more boring than I expected it to be. Clare says this is all "confusing." Which I do 100% understand, considering Juan Pabby was totally on board with ocean sex two nights ago. "If he didn't think it was right, he shouldn't have done it." Uh, yeah.

"Do I want to crawl back in my little turtle shell? Yeah," Clare says. She tells the other girls she has bad allergies and they're like "lol, okay." Clare runs off into the darkness to cry some more, and Juan Pabby goes after her, and she offers to give the rose back, and at this point this is so pathetic that I actually feel really sorry for her.

Rose ceremony time. Juan Pabby gives the usual "I hate this part, it's so hard to say goodbye" speech and then sends home Danielle, Alli, and Kelly (the girl whose occupation was "Dog Lover"). Juan Pabby cries, which is presumably residual emotions from the Clare thing. Everyone else cries also, even the girls who are not going home, because I guess seeing Juan Pabby crying is just that powerful. The only one who doesn't cry is Danielle, who is super normal apparently and did not get enough screen time. Like this seems like the first time she's been on screen, period. Her attitude is pretty much like "well, I was hoping for more but I DID get to travel across the world, so whatevs." Next week they go to New Zealand and Sharleen gets more screen time which is all I want out of this season.