Why hello, there. So there was a storm in the city this week. I don’t think I can say much about it that hasn’t been said.1 So instead, here’s what I was doing in the hours before Sandy hit: I was at Books of Wonder, getting a chance to tell Bruce Coville that his books shaped my childhood, changed my life, and meant the world to me.
Many years ago I wrote an overview review of some of his books that meant the most to me as a kid. Shortly after I wrote that blog entry, I went about tracking down some of the ones that I’d lost over the years — specifically the AI Gang trilogy, and upon rereading them, I remembered exactly how much I loved them and how viscerally I identified with Wendy as a kid. (Short! Smart! Loud! Messy! Oversized sweatshirts! Not a morning person!), which was why, out of the 32 Coville novels still on my shelf, I brought those to the signing.
Anyway. There are two points to this blog entry:
1) The AI Gang trilogy has been out of print for decades, but Mr. Coville let me know he’s just released them as ebooks. They’re pretty cheap and definitely worth a read, if you enjoy stories about how a gang of smart kids saves the world. If you read this blog, that’s very likely up your alley. JUST SAYIN’.
2) Getting to meet a writer whose books I have been reading and loving literally since I learned to read was an amazing, overwhelming experience (he was super, super nice, btw, of course), and one I probably would not have had if not for Books of Wonder, an awesome store that is currently seeking some financial help. For more on how great the store is, here’s Jess’s blog entry. I hope you’ll consider donating.
During a meeting at work a few days ago, we were scrolling through a collection of MSNBC videos, and stopped on this one. If you’ve got a moment, check this out:
[Summary for those who don't do video: an NBC news segment from the early 80s, which reports on a mystery illness found primarily but not exclusively in gay men, which wrecks the immune system. A third of the people who have it have died, mostly of Kaposi's sarcoma or pneomocystic pneumonia. The CDC has just released a report saying they don't know what causes this, but they think it's a new, deadly STD, which as of yet has no cure, but is becoming a serious health problem.]
What struck me watching the video was how much it seems like science fiction, since it’s practically the set up for a horror story. There’s an outbreak of a mystery illness, which seems to come out of nowhere, gets spread around quickly, and next thing you know, hundreds of thousands of people die, and the story begins. Except that it’s nonfiction, and, as is probably clear to anyone watching today, the video is a very early report on HIV/AIDS, even before it had that name. And the video is relevant this week because this past weekend was the 30th anniversary of the first published reference to HIV, which appeared June 5, 1981, in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
But frankly, does being non-fiction mean this isn’t a horror story, in a way? At this point, the count of people who’ve died is in the millions, and while there’s effective medication for those who can afford it and have access to treatment, there’s still neither a cure nor a vaccine.1 And here in the U.S., now that there are effective medications, there’s also not urgency left around the virus, and so people continue to get infected, and both here and globally, people continue to die.
Wow, is that depressing. Another depressing fact: anyone born in the last 30 years has never lived in a world without AIDS. Which isn’t mind-blowing or anything, but it was very much on my mind in the last few weeks, as we at the TheBody.com began gearing up for coverage of AIDS at 30. In fact, it was on my mind enough that I actually wrote a whole article on it:
I don’t want to make it sound like HIV/AIDS was some sort of specter that haunted my childhood. In fact, to the best of my knowledge, I didn’t even know anyone with HIV growing up. My first memories of the world around me begin around 1990, and HIV is among them, in a handful of jumbled, confused moments. I think it was like that for a lot of people my age who hadn’t been personally touched by HIV/AIDS: It was a huge deal when we were kids, but not necessarily in ways we understood.
When I was 7 or so years old, I remember a wild round of boys-chase-girls, girls-chase-boys, sort of free-for-all tag on the playground. A boy grabbed me, and in my frantic attempt to get away, apparently I bit him. A few minutes later, my teacher pulled me aside and told me I had to go stand by the wall for 10 minutes (the harshest punishment known to second graders, not to mention unfair to boot, since he grabbed me, but after 20 years, I think I’ve come to terms with it). My teacher explained the reason for my miniature detention: “Biting is really dangerous. Because of AIDS.”
Feel free to read the whole thing. And, if you’re interested, we’ve actually got tons of other perspectives, from people living with HIV, advocates, doctors, and community members. Check it out: 2011: Thirty Years of AIDS.
- Blah blah blah Berlin patient. Not to downplay how impressive and awesome that was, but talk to me when there’s a replicable, accessible, actually feasible cure. ↩
So here’s the thing. I love boy bands. This shouldn’t come as an enormous surprise, given there’s a whole category to the right somewhere called “this must be pop.” (Which, aside from being about pop, is also an *NSYNC lyric.) So last year when my awesome BFF Jess suggested we should keep some sort of official look out for up-and-coming boy bands, naturally I was all over that. And thus, the Official Tweenage Wasteland Official Boy Band Watch was born!
Aaaand also not a surprise, if you’ve poked around here before (or spoken to me pretty much at all in the last few months), I adore the Nickelodeon show Big Time Rush, which is, of course, about a boy band named Big Time Rush, who have recently put out an album titled (just to be different)… “BTR.” And naturally, Jess and I had to rate it.
So here it is! OTWOBBW: Big Time Rush. (Bonus, we spruced up Tweenage’s layout a bit, so now the text isn’t squished into such a small column. Check it out!)
Last week, mlawski at Overthinking It posted a graphic titled The Female Character Flow Chart. I saw it, thought, “Huh, interesting,” and that was that. Then a couple of days later one of my friends posted me towards some criticism of it, leading to discussion and more thinking on my part.
I was surprised to see so much commentary on it because it never occurred to me that the chart was aimed at someone like me, who already spends time thinking about the representation of women in the media. I don’t think good intentions (which I assume mlawski had) or intended audience arguments excuse all flaws (more on those in a second), but I definitely read the chart as intended for readers who hadn’t already thought about women in the media. I could certainly see someone running across this who hadn’t noticed those problematic tropes, the lack of dynamic female characters, or that many, many female characters are defined solely by their relationships to men and children could have an eye-opening, “aha!” moment.
Regardless of who it’s aimed at, I don’t think anyone’s wrong for reading it critically. There are two different braches of criticism that I’ve seen (though I haven’t looked around extensively; I haven’t even read the comments on the original post, since I looked at the post when it first went up, ages before the comment count rose). One is about the privilege and lack of nuance in the chart; the other is about the chart as reductionist when it comes to the characters in question.
The first, I can’t put any better than this post from homasse at deadbrowalking:
A wee bit down on this mess of a flowchart, you will find “Useless Girl” with the example being Uhura from Star Trek.
And why is this fail? Because, once again, feminism shows a woeful lack of awareness of race and the impact race plays.
Uhura was “useless” not because of her gender, but because of race–this chart ignores the political and social situation of when the show was made and the decisions made in regards to her character because she was Black: They couldn’t ever put her in charge of the bridge because people in the south specifically would have flipped out at a black woman being in charge (this was why Ensign Chekov was given the bridge and she never was even though she outranked him).
I’d also like to point out bossymarmalade’s post about Yoko Ono, someone who I consider awesome. It sucks to see people buy into the cultural storyline that she broke up the Beatles, when that is just false, and further, when she’s great.1
So yes, I think there are some problems with the chart in that regard, and I’m glad people pointed them out. But I don’t entirely agree with the argument about the chart being reductionist, and diminishing the characters who are on it. Or rather — I do, kind of. The best way to put it was something said by my friend Jess: “Basically, if that one box ending in ‘strong female character’ wasn’t there, I’d like the chart a lot better.”
For me, that sums it up. I think the chart actually branches out into a lot more specifics than I’d use if I made something like it — like, there are multiple slots for women whose motivations come entirely from their kids — but the main problem I have is that any one of these slots/archetypes/clichés/whatever you want to call them can indeed be written well. They can be thorough, three dimensional, story-carrying, awesome characters.
My go-to example is Sarah Connor. Sarah is listed the character representing “Mama Bear.” And when I saw that, I went “a-yup.” TV Tropes has her listed as both a Mama Bear and Action Mom. The first Terminator movie is based on this premise: Sarah Connor must live, because her son saves the world. Not “Sarah Connor must live because she saves the world.” While she’s the awesome character, the series is always about her (at that point unborn) son. When we next see her in T2, she’s had John, and devoted herself to preparing him for his fate — and keeping him safe. When he rescues her, an act that explicitly saves her life, she scolds him for putting himself in danger. She’ll do anything, up to and including sacrificing herself, if it saves John. While Sarah is the protagonist of the first two movies, her motivation — the entire premise of the series — is based on protecting John.
The thing is, though, that Sarah is awesome. In the first movie, she grows from damsel-in-need-of-rescue to bandaging injuries and learning to make bombs. She’s the one who finally destroys the Terminator. She has help along the way, but she’s still a character who learns skills and saves herself. In T2, she’s even more complex. She’s in an institution because people believe she’s insane, but we as viewers know she’s right. But being right doesn’t make her entirely mentally able, though — it’s clear she’s got PTSD or something akin to it (and understandably). She’s amazingly kick-ass (her escape is my favorite sequence in the movie) and morally complex. We know she’d kill someone to save John, but she isn’t able to kill Miles Dyson, though she thinks doing so will keep Skynet from existing — and though she expects herself to be able to do it. And that’s without even getting into the sadly too-short lived TV show.2
Sarah Connor is a great character. She’s three dimensional and dynamic. She’s capable of carrying a story. But as much as I’d be all over a the story about how Sarah Connor must live so she can lead humanity in the battle against Skynet, I don’t know that it would necessarily be a better story than Sarah trying to save her son. Different, yes; certainly unusual. But Sarah Connor is both an Action Mama Bear and a great character. (And further, just because Sarah Connor is great doesn’t mean there aren’t other characters who fall into that slot who aren’t poorly written, or that the Mama Bear archetype is never problematic.)
The way I see it, while there are indeed plenty of archetypes and tropes out there that are problematic simply for existing — racist and sexist stereotypes, for example, which come up all too frequently — once you’re beyond those,3 just because a character (female or otherwise) hits an archetype doesn’t mean the character is poorly drawn.
- That said, I do understand why there are some actual, not-at-all fictional people on this chart, Yoko among them. This culture often treats celebrities as characters, and though she in no way deserves to, the Yoko character is indeed an archetypal example of “woman who breaks up the boys’ fun,” and/or “woman who ruins the man’s genius.” Because you know, she totally ruined John Lennon by being awesome and, by doing so, making him happy. HOW DARE SHE. That said, I don’t know enough about Michelle Rodriguez to have any idea what she’s mean to represent. ↩
- I need to re-watch that, but the scene that stands out to me is when she sees Cameron, the teenage girl terminator, about to kill a cop who’s questioning her for being somewhere suspicious, and Sarah interjects, pretending to be a pissed-off mother looking for her out-breaking-curfew daughter and gets everyone out of the situation alive. She isn’t just able to blow things up. She’s smart on her feet. My kinda heroine. ↩
- Of course, everyone’s mileage will vary when it comes to what those are and what’s beyond them. ↩
Normally this would be a Lazy Sunday post, but as I actually did a book review yesterday, and today is a holiday, we’ll fudge it just a little. Here’s some miscellanea:
#32: Guardian of the Dead by Karen Healey
This is a really good book. It’s YA fantasy that takes place in New Zealand and centers around New Zealand’s native mythology. Healely went out of her way to make the cast diverse and inclusive — including characters of color and characters with non-hetero sexualities — and she also went out of her way to be respectful of the mythology she used. (Well, okay, that shouldn’t be going out of her way, that should just be How Things Are Done, but sadly, that often isn’t true. Either way, she wrote a really interesting blog post about working with cultural consultants.)
Since this is YA fantasy, of course, you may be expecting a link to a full review over at Active Voice… and there is one, but I didn’t write it. It just seemed silly for me to write a whole review of a book when I could basically sum it up as, what Jess said.
I’ve had some of these links saved for ages, so… uh, apologies for the out of date conversations? All still interesting, though!
And realizing that Yoko wasn’t to blame for the Beatles breakup makes you ask a question. Why does the myth persist?
I had come to believe that most Beatles historians and true, educated fans had wised up enough to see the Yoko charade for what it is. So imagine my disappointment when proven wrong. Earlier this year, I finished Bob Spitz’s biography The Beatles, which is arguably the most comprehensive Beatles biography in existence. The book starts out amazingly, but about halfway through inexplicably begins to decline rapidly in the number of details provided once the Beatles become famous. That was annoying. But far more so was the unabashed, unapologetic and shameful smearing of Yoko Ono — made even worse by its presentation as fact when so clearly Spitz’s personal opinion. And this opinion is indicative, I think, of the opinion of most Yoko haters ….
So who is the main purveyor of the Yoko myths? Can we pin it on historians like Bob Spitz? Certainly, they hold part of the blame and need to be called out on it. But no, I blame someone else entirely for the bulk of the treatment and misogynistic cultural perceptions of Yoko Ono, as did John. In the first/next part of this series, they are the people who I’m going to discuss. And their names are Paul, George and Ringo.
Indeed. It was heartbreaking for me to realize, as I went through my Beatles Phase, that they were actually kind of dicks, and definitely abusers. Trying to reconcile that with my emotional investment in them, and their historical significance… well, I still struggle with that. It sucks to realize that people you idolize aren’t perfect, and can be outright nasty.
Anyway, all the Yoko hate out there started to bother me a few years ago, and it took awhile for me to twig to why. This pretty much sums it up — plus the cultural narrative that women ruin and destroy (see also: Eve, Pandora). Definitely worth a read.
Talk about out of date. Apparently last October, some jackass wrote an essay about how scifi is being feminized and that’s ruining the genre and also the world! Because science! You see, if girl cooties get into genre fiction, no boys will want to be scientists, and then there will be no scientists. If only the BSG remake hasn’t made Starbuck a woman!
Need I say that the Smart Bitches takedown is great?
The thing is, I can’t get past the feeling that focusing on the love triangle somehow dismisses the central point of the series. Sure, it’s a very commercial, mainstream series that is clearly meant to be a page-turning, engrossing experience. But it’s also about war, violence, mortality, and inequality. I’m a fan of The Hunger Games because of the way the books deal with these issues in such a readable yet thought-provoking (and gut-wrenching) way.
I’ve been trying for ages to put my finger on why “team” terminology bothers me when it comes to YA fiction. I don’t care, like, at all about Twilight, but that actually is a romance, but for series like Hunger Games and or Scott Westerfeld’s Pretties, both series in which I’ve seen this (and I’m sure there are more), it’s really bothered me. I know romances are compelling and even necessary for some readers (I enjoy them but don’t find them necessary to enjoy a story, personally) but to me that feels reductive. These stories aren’t about which guy the heroine ends up with. In life-or-death adventures, it really bothers me that the narrative around girls is romance, no matter how much ass they kick.
Basically, Malinda Lo says that. But way more eloquently. Totally worth a read.
Contest! That I’m entering!
The last time I entered a contest by linking from here, I won! So what the heck, I’ll try it again for the giveaway of an ARC I really want to get my hands on:
Part fugitive, part hero, fifteen-year-old Nya is barely staying ahead of the Duke of Baseer’s trackers. Wanted for a crime she didn’t mean to commit, she risks capture to protect every Taker she can find, determined to prevent the Duke from using them in his fiendish experiments. But resolve isn’t enough to protect any of them, and Nya soon realizes that the only way to keep them all out of the Duke’s clutches is to flee Geveg. Unfortunately, the Duke’s best tracker has other ideas.
Nya finds herself trapped in the last place she ever wanted to be, forced to trust the last people she ever thought she could. More is at stake than just the people of Geveg, and the closer she gets to uncovering the Duke’s plan, the more she discovers how critical she is to his victory. To save Geveg, she just might have to save Baseer — if she doesn’t destroy it first.
(In case you are wondering, I loved the first book and highly recommend it.)
Okay, y’all. That’s all I’ve got. Happy Labor Day.
Or, What I Did on my Summer Not-Actually-Vacation
I’m about to attempt something I do only very rarely: actually blog about events in my life. See, I don’t usually bother because my life isn’t very interesting, but let me lay two fun and exciting facts on you:
1) I am the site manager for TheBody.com, a massive online HIV/AIDS resource; and,
2) Every two years, there’s an International AIDS Conference held somewhere different.
I am, generally speaking, not much of a traveler. My basic philosophy tends towards, “But all my stuff is here, so why would I want to go there?” Which I think is a valid life choice, though it baffles basically everyone else. Bah. But I still don’t exactly look gift-horses in the mouth, so when it was announced that the XVIII International AIDS conference (aka AIDS 2010) was going to be held in Vienna, Austria, and that we would be sending a team to cover it, and I was asked if I would like to be part of that team…?
So basically, what I’m saying is that last week I spent nine days in Vienna.1 And it was awesome. So let me dig back, back, baaaaaack into my memory, roughly two weeks ago…
It began on my birthday, with a string of good birthday luck. My awesome coworkers Olivia and Myles and I met at JFK airport, where we paused to ask someone where to check in. The gentleman we asked said there was a long line, but offered to take care of us himself, and reassigned our seats so we were on aisles, next to empty seats. And then the baggage guy grabbed us first out of a small mob, and then they opened a new security line right as we walked past, moving us up to the front. Birthday magic! The flight left early afternoon and continued through evening, a very short night, and deposited us in Vienna the next morning.Despite general exhaustion, we managed to find our way through the Vienna subway to our hotels. In order to stave off jetlag, we decided not to immediately fall into bed2 and instead dropped off our luggage and went out with two goals: phones, and food. Phones because ours didn’t work internationally, and food because it had been a long flight with no vegetarian options.
The phone thing. That was fun. We wandered the streets on a tip from the hotel desk lady, looking for what we thought was an electronics shop and didn’t learn for four days was actually a subway station, whoops. (I should probably note at this point that I speak the most German out of anyone in our group, and the only thing I know how to say is, “I don’t speak German, can you speak English?”) But after a fair amount of wandering, we found a store helpfully labeled “Call Shop,” run by an Austrian gentleman who spoke about as much English as I do German. So you can imagine the fun hijinks as we tried to ask for the cheapest phones he had, with pay-as-you-go contracts. And then…
Oh man, the food. Lunch was just spaghetti with tomato and basil, since it was the only thing I was pretty sure was vegetarian on the menu. And I swear, it was the AWESOMEST SPAGHETTI EVER. No, really. REALLY.
So, phones, language barriers, food, and then scooting across town to meet the last member of our party, Mark. Fun thing about working for a website: you don’t always actually know everyone you work with in person. Mark S. King has been blogging for us for ages, and this was the first time we’d met him face to face. He was pretty much exactly what you’d expect from watching his videos (which I highly recommend). End day one. Day two was what’s known as the MSM Forum,3 and the beginning of our coverage.
I didn’t do much for that; everyone else had facets to cover, but as site manager, my job was more techy than anything else. The basic plan was for me to attend panels of the conference that particularly interested me, but other than that, basically to either chill in the media center, prepping our coverage and getting it ready to go, and tracking the conference online; or to plug our recording equipment into the press conference soundboard and record sessions there, so that the people writing coverage were freed up to go to panels that interested them. So (aside from a trip back to the call shop to purchase more minutes for our phones, and figure out how to install them, with the same gentleman as the previous day) my day was pretty chill. Instead of detailing my methods for tracking the #AIDS2010 hashtag on twitter, I’ll tell you this: Vienna’s subway isn’t like New York’s subway.
I suspect we were all a little nervous about the trip, since apparently transportation had been a bit of an issue two years ago for the conference in Mexico City. But Vienna’s public transit, it turns out, is great, and easily comprehensible to a non-German speaker, or at least one who’s used to the complex mess that is New York’s MTA.4 It was extremely easy to navigate, with lovely LED signs on every platform that let you know how long it would be until the next train, never more than 6 minutes.5 And it was clean! It was almost as if the people of Vienna didn’t treat the track and platform as a series of large trashcans. You could walk the length of the platform without your shoe landing in something suspiciously sticky! I was pretty amazed, though what really marked me as a tourist was the subway doors. In New York, they open automatically. In Vienna, they don’t; you have to either press the button or jerk the handle. I kept forgetting to do that and would stand there, baffled, until someone reached around me to open them. Whoops.
Oh, and did I mention that their subways seem to run on the trust system? That was maybe the strangest difference of all. You pay for your ticket (one trip, day pass, week pass, whatever) and get it punched by a machine so it’s stamped with the date/time you started using it. Then you can get on and off without having to swipe it or show it to anyone or anything, and keep using it for however long it’s valid. There are no turnstyles or anything; you can just walk onto the platform and they apparently just trust that you’ve paid. (Well, apparently there are occasional spot-checks to see that everyone in the subway has a ticket, and steep fines for anyone who doesn’t, but even so, my mind is somewhat blown.)
Okay, so. The conference finally got into swing the third day we were there, with the official opening session, keynote speaker Bill Clinton. I was, somehow, the only person from our group who was interested in going. That also blew my mind because it was Bill Clinton, you guys, he’s kind of a big deal! Or at least he’s a really engaging, funny speaker. I was blown away, though some of that was certainly jetlag. He said lots of smart, interesting things and generally oozed charm in exactly the way you’d expect him to. Nothing he said was controversial, and he went out of his way to defend Obama’s HIV/AIDS policies.6 It was interesting, and I’m glad I made the trip for that alone. (Here: have my official coverage of the thing.)
I wish I could tell you about the awesome activities and sights and sounds over the next few days, but honestly, it’s all kind of a blur. We did go out for delicious food almost every night, but were also working incredibly long days. I only went to a handful of actual sessions: a workshop on how AIDS organizations can best work with the media,7 a really fascinating panel discussion about sex workers and HIV, and a really dreadful panel I won’t get into because it seems polite (but which was the only thing about the conference itself I didn’t enjoy). Conference food, of course, was mediocre. But the people were great. (I also went to a tweet-up of people who were posting about/following the conference on Twitter to exchange thoughts on new media and HIV, which was pretty directly up my alley.)And as I said, there were the people we’ve worked with for ages but haven’t necessarily met face to face. Mark, whose daily videos were great; River Huston, a blogger who was there to perform and who we had dinner with; Ben Young, a doctor who helps train people in HIV care across the world,8 and many, many others.
There was also the human rights rally, culminating with a concert by Annie Lennox. If you’ve ever read this blog before (or looked at the category list to the right) it shouldn’t come as a shock to hear that I’m a bleeding-heart progressive lefty liberal type. What blew me away about the human rights rally in specific and the conference in general was this: being surrounded by about 20,000 other people who care like I care. The rally had people from dozens of different organizations, representing, in no particular order, anti-homophobia, anti-racism, anti-poverty, anti-ableism, anti-ageism, feminism, sex workers’ rights, drug users’ rights, etc etc etc. Hey, guess what, it turns out there’s a lot of intersectionality around HIV, because HIV hits so many communities that are already lacking in privilege. If you’re fighting an *ism, there’s a pretty good chance HIV affects your cause.
More food I experienced: goat cheese patties, goat cheese baked into fresh pastries, goat cheese and spinach tarts; cucumber salad, pumpkin spice salad, and baked goat cheese salad.9 Not to mention the amazing gelato and pastries. Even the hotel food was delicious. Heck, even the airline bread (the only thing I could eat on the flights) was fresh and yummy. I’m not much for food. In fact, as a general rule, if I could photosynthesize instead of eat, that would be kind of awesome. But I have to say, damn, there was a lot of good food on that trip.
Time passed really strangely while we were there. Each individual day was really, really long: up at 7 AM, not back in the hotel room until midnight, and more work until 2, if the hotel’s wireless was functioning. Individual days were lonnnnnng. And yet, when the conference ended and we were packing up, it seemed like no time had passed at all. It was kind of surreal, actually, and felt like leaving the day after we arrived, and once back in New York, it was only the jetlag exhaustion and all the chocolate I brought back that made me sure I’d been anywhere at all.10
The flight home had none of the smoothness of our trip there. I’m pretty sure all 20,000 conference attendees were leaving within the same four-hour frame or so, so the Vienna airport was a freaking madhouse with an enormous mob of people we had to wade through for an hour before getting to the actual line. We were rushed through, frazzled and harried, while someone demanded to see our printed itineraries and wouldn’t let anyone on the plane without one.11 Oh, and my rolling suitcase decided not to roll, which made getting from JFK back to my apartment by public transit (in 100 degree weather, on zero hours of sleep) super duper fun.
- Don’t think too hard about that math. ↩
- Also, our hotels weren’t ready for us yet. ↩
- Full title: Global Forum on Men Who Have Sex With Men and HIV. ↩
- Conversations usually go like this: “I waited at the stop for 25 minutes before a conductor for another line said the train wouldn’t come. I had to hop the wrong line and go four stops downtown to catch another train uptown and then a bus across to where I wanted to go. Took me three hours… Still the best damn public transportation in the world.” ↩
- Some New York platforms have those, too. The difference is that Vienna’s were accurate. ↩
- I’m not sure how I feel about those, frankly, but that’s an entry for another time, or for my actual job… ↩
- Not aimed at me, technically a media person, but interesting nonetheless. ↩
- You should read this article he helped with, and then you should write to the Ukranian government. Just sayin’. ↩
- Psh, and people said I wouldn’t be able to find anything vegetarian… Everyone else seemed quite taken with the wienerschnitzel. ↩
- And also that Andy Pettitte was injured while I was out of the country. I get back and he’s on the DL. BOO. ↩
- Not, keep in mind, our boarding passes; she didn’t care about those. Did you print out an email confirmation when you bought your ticket? No? Then NO FLIGHT FOR YOU! Whaaaaaat. ↩
So Nickelodeon’s trying to mimic Disney; the network partnered with Sony to put out albums for some of its up-and-coming stars, using wacky TV shows as launching pads. (Or so Wikipedia tells me.) The first was Miranda Cosgrove of iCarly, a pretty decent tween show; the second was the boy band Big Time Rush of Big Time Rush, who I immediately loved; and the third… the third is Victoria Justice of the brand-new-last-week show Victorious.
The show was incredibly, offensively bad. Sidekicks who make sexual assault jokes, a protagonist with no personality, an antagonist who only cares about the boy in her life, on top of generic, mediocre writing. Wow, I really, really did not like it at all.
I almost never actually link to the stuff I write on Tweenage Wasteland, huh? That’s mostly because it tends to consist of stupid pictures of Zac Efron accompanied by very little actual writing, but heck, sometimes I bother with more. Like yesterday: I accidentally stumbled across a new-ish Nickelodeon show, Big Time Rush, and was baffled for about five seconds until I realized it’s just The Monkees wearing tighter jeans. Seriously. And since boy bands and wacky hijinks are among my favorite things, I was entranced despite some sexist fail. Here’s hoping the show improves.
A few weeks ago, my very smart friend Jen mentioned on Twitter that she was reading Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games. My reactions, in order, were, “Awesome!” and, “Really?” Because (aside from superhero stories) Jen is not much for my beloved scifi/fantasy genres. So while I’d classify The Hunger Games as “book that you should read regardless of genre,” it wasn’t something I’d have recommended to her.
We had the following exchange:
Me: Ooooh. I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts, though I probably wouldn’t have recced it to you.
Jen: I love dystopias! And I loved the movie of Battle Royale. So I think I will like this.
Me: How did I not know that about you??? (I guess I think dystopia = scifi = not so much your interest?)
Jen: I don’t see dystopia as sci-fi; if anything, it’s the reverse of historical fiction, which I also love.
Me: That is really interesting! I tend to think of it as just a sf subgenre, but I can see why you don’t.
Interesting thought, filed away for “things to think about later,” though I never really did. Until I ran across this post on io9 in Google Reader. I clicked over because that was the first time I’d seen a cover or title for the final book in Wasserman’s Skinned series — which I will definitely buy in hardcover as soon as it comes out — and the actual post turned out to be a question of whether or not YA has moved on from scifi.
My initial reaction is, um, no, especially not given the fantastic success of The Hunger Games and Catching Fire, as well as Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies trilogy, and a handful of others. But the post posits that the argument for YA not being big on scifi right now is based on not counting dystopias like the ones I just mentioned as science fiction. Interesting, especially because almost all of the YA scifi I can think of — at least published recently — is very near-future, is dystopian, or both.
Innnnnnteresting. So if you have thoughts, please throw them out in the comments! Do you consider dystopian novels part of a larger science fiction genre, or are they their own beast? Does it depend on the story? (Any recs? Because I need a longer reading list…)
So, speaking of what is big in YA, an interesting link: Girls Just Wanna Have Fangs:
Twilight is more than a teen dream. It’s a massive cultural force. Yet the very girliness that has made it such a success has resulted in its being marginalized and mocked. Of course, you won’t find many critics lining up to defend Dan Brown or Tom Clancy, either; mass-market success rarely coincides with literary acclaim. But male escapist fantasies — which, as anyone who has seen Die Hard or read those Tom Clancy novels can confirm, are not unilaterally sophisticated, complex, or forward-thinking — tend to be greeted with shrugs, not sneers. The Twilight backlash is vehement, and it is just as much about the fans as it is about the books. Specifically, it’s about the fact that those fans are young women.
I’m no fan of Twilight, but that’s not really what the article is about. It isn’t a question of whether Twilight is good or bad, it’s about why Twilight fans are greeted with sneers and disdain. Hint: because girls like it. And quality and content of the novels aside, that’s not an okay reason to dismiss them.
And continuing in that vein, tween stars. Jen (the same Jen as above) passed on a link she realized would be relevant to my interests: Smells Like an Ethnically Divided Teen Star System
The editor who chose to display the photos in this manner might argue it was simply artful to play up contrasts. And it’s not to argue that the “ethnic” stars have particularly dark skin (this is Hollywood, after all), just that they are racialized as not exactly white, and the positioning next to “whiter” stars makes this assertion stronger. Moreover, the juxtaposition eerily echoes the way in which leaked gossip in 2008 characterized Selena Gomez and Hannah Montana actress and singer Miley Cyrus (the arguably All-American daughter of country singer Billy Ray Cyrus) as unfriendly rivals and ultimately positioned Gomez and purported BFF Demi Lovato, another Disney actress and singer also of half-Mexican heritage, in a separate camp from their more EuroAmerican counterparts at Disney. Is the conglomerate thinking of teen celebrity promotion in relation to ethnic blocs?
Interesting stuff. There’s also a good point in the comments; most of the ethnically ambiguous actors you see on Nick and Disney and even the CW are female; with the exception of Taylor Lautner and his Amazing Abs, the young, male heartthrob ideal remains pretty freaking white. I can think of a few other Disney kids who are ethnically ambiguous, and a few who are non-ambiguously African-American — but they aren’t kids who are being set up to follow the Zac Efron mold, either, which makes me think Lautner is an exception that proves the rule.
And now, because it is a lazy Sunday, I think I will take a nap. (Translation: I have no idea how to conclude this blog post.)
First things first: I wrote an article for work about the increasing funding issues that AIDS Drug Assistance Programs are facing, and specifically about a woman who, after years of drug addiction, getting her HIV diagnosis in jail, and then doing a 180 and turning her life around, was kicked out of her drug assistance program. Though the story is pretty depressing, she was a lovely, fascinating person, willing to share all that with me despite not being out about her HIV status and needing to remain anonymous to avoid stigma. So if you have a moment, please do read.
Over at AV, I recently reviewed The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor. Two cupcakes. Not great.
Somewhere in one of the Hitchhiker’s Guide books — I suspect one of the later ones, which I haven’t read as often1 — there’s a character it always rains on. He actually turns out to be descended from a rain god, but doesn’t know that, so instead he just copes with the fact that everywhere he goes, it rains.
I’m starting to think I’m something like that. But with leaks.
Growing up, my bedroom leaked. We had the roof rebuilt and reshingled, but couldn’t find the source of the problem. This was upstate New York, with all of its ridiculous blizzards; after every one, we’d shovel the driveway, and then my dad and I would climb up on to the roof and shovel that off, too, hoping that it would keep snow from melting directly into my bedroom.
When I got to college, the source was eventually found. It was one of the joys of living in a very old house: the thing had been built out over a hundred years or so, the front rooms being the original section — then the next two rooms built on, the upstairs, and finally the back section of the house, which included my room. The house was built on a hill. And whoever added on that last section did not, as it turned out, build a foundation under it.
My bedroom was slowly falling off the house and down the hill, and whatever stretch and strain that put on the house opened it up to leaks.
I moved to the city four years ago this month, and within three months there created a leak from our bathroom into the next apartment down. (I still feel guilt over this, accident though it was.) I flushed the toilet, got in the shower, and when I stepped out, discovered ankle-deep water on the bathroom floor, and rising. Luckily, that building had the greatest super of all time, who not only fixed the suddenly-broken pipe and helped get the water under control, he also calmed down the downstairs neighbor. Phew!
Greatest super ever exhibit number two: a year later, when a leak opened in our ceiling — barely a drip, but definitely there — within 48 hours, the super had the ceiling open, the pipe replaced, and the ceiling closed back up, repainted, and all the dust and debris swept up and dealt with. For those of you who’ve never seen something like that in action, that was remarkably efficient. My sister and I left that building really reluctantly because seriously, that guy was awesome.
All of which is a leadup to this series of pictures of my kitchen wall over the last week:
The large hole in relation to relatively small me.
“The hole will be fixed today!” …It wasn’t.
We didn’t even know about this leak; the pipe was between our wall and the neighbor’s, and dripping into the basement while affecting us not at all. But it had to be fixed, and our wall had to come down to do it.
The worst part wasn’t even the return of my leak-inducing superpower, or whatever this is. There were two real issues: #1, with the kitchen totally disassembled, we had the sink sitting on the floor, and the cabinets in front of the fridge, and everything that had been in them piled on the stove. Meaning there was no way we could, you know… cook. For the four days it took to get this settled. Yeesh.
But worse yet was what happened to poor Lily Flufferson, the terrible mouser. She couldn’t be allowed to roam free with construction stuff sitting around and a giant hole in the wall for her to get lost in. She’s not smart enough to avoid such things. So for three days, she had to stay in small rooms if we weren’t home or awake to keep an eye on her — meaning the whole work day, and overnight. On day #3, I worked from home because we just couldn’t do that to her anymore. Poor kitty.
She’s fine now. The wall is fixed. Ish. The kitchen is still a wreck, but what are you going to do?
In conclusion, have a picture of my cat being adorable. (You’d think with that much fur, she wouldn’t want to sit directly in front of the radiator.)
- Rachel corrects me, it’s in Dirk Gently, it turns out. Right author, wrong series. ↩