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.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

I LOVE LORDE

I love her. I LOVE HER. Look at this weird ass video.

The first lines are literally about how she thinks people are boring. You're boring. What you say about her is boring, what you say about her music is boring, she's just super bored. And then she says "Because I'm doing this for the thrill of it, killin' it/ Never not chasing a million things I want." She's doing what she wants and she's doing it for herself. And then she goes out and makes a video where she stands there creepily looking at you with dark lipstick on and just says "Yeah." Because she can. And every thing you say about her being a freak or whatever just proves her point.

I love her. I find it so refreshing and interesting that she is only 17 and making music like this, which to me is incredibly wise. She writes about what it's like to be young in such a different way. I was discussing this with one of my friends and we decided she is essentially the "anti-Taylor Swift," which I do not mean in a bad way because I also listen to Taylor with some frequency. I just think Lorde has a different approach to it, and that she is probably at least somewhat more self-aware than other people tackling the subject of what it's like to be young. Taylor tends to focus on things like falling in love and getting your heart broken, and in my opinion she does so in very delicate and insightful ways. But where that is the standard and expected set of topics for music by and for teenage girls, Lorde goes a different direction and writes about being weird and alienated and rising above that. She also covers topics such as society's obsession with violence, becoming famous at a young age, and trying to reconcile the reality of your life with what society tells you is normal.

I wish I had had someone like her to listen to in high school (I'm going to try not to think about how old Lorde was when I was in high school) (she was like 7). I have honestly never wrestled TOO much with other people's opinions of me, because for the most part I really do not care, and even in high school my "do what makes you happy, screw what other people think" philosophy that I live by now was taking root. But everyone has their moments of weakness, and it would have been so comforting to listen to someone else my age sing about the same defiance I tried to feel and express every day. Lorde speaks to my inner sixteen year old as much as she speaks to me at 26, and I love that ability of her music to transcend.

She's coming to Denver in March, and I'm planning on doing whatever it takes to get a ticket to that show. That is my level of obsession - I am willing to pay above regular price on StubHub for that ticket because the show sold out months ago. But I don't care. It has been a long time since I listened to an album so much I learned the words to every song. The last time I did that was probably... um, actually I think it was Taylor Swift's Red. So again, in case it needs to be reiterated, I'm not in any way trying to pit these two ladies against each other. I love listening to them both. But Pure Heroine is the album on repeat in my car right now.

I will end this post with this link this awesome interview with Lorde that really made me love her, Ella, the actual person, as much as I love her music, and also this cool remix of my favorite song by her: