On Saturday, my uncle tapped me for the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.  Unfortunately, I was without a camera operator at the time.  We wedged it into a day of fun yesterday with friends in Austin.

I’d like to challenge Michael O’Malley (my boss), Chelsea Stockton (muh lady), and Josef Bodine (the man rather vigorously hitting me in the ear with ice.).  Don’t forget to donate and pick your three.

For Fun: Two truths and a Lie.

My greatest aspiration as a five year old child was to be a paleontology and to every one I told that I had to explain the meaning of the word.

I founded a non-profit in college which I now find distasteful and needless. It was a scholarship incorporated under The Vega Society.

I grew up under the eye of a kind but exceedingly judgmental and coarse sect of Christianity. I was uncomfortable wearing shots until well into adulthood.

A Writerly Howdyado

I’ve taken a few breaks from writing lately. First, and most significantly, I took the month of the Cup off. That time encompassed some strange feelings, not least among them the realization of just how easy it is to break a year and a half old habit. Less surprising was the want to get back to things. Phew.

I’ve also broken from writing quite so many updates on the status of the series and now that I’ve hit a new new, I’d like to take this moment.

Coming out of the month’s hiatus, I reread the entirety of the second books. Lots of issues to address and few of them fun, but I took copious notes and set it aside again. I know with absolute certainty that I will regret this in some fashion. I want to get all three novels, the current one included, into a near second draft stage before I set into the bulk of edits. If it is a mistake—as it feels—its one I am going into consciously. That much massive editing, just six months or so in the future, does not promise great fun, but I want a tight thematic arch across the trilogy and I don’t think I’ll find it satisfactory if I rush into the novels too quickly. I’m all the time figuring out what they’re actually about.

After that, I spent a little time crafting a story out of a couple of Writing Excuses exercise as a way of getting into something a bit more fun after the read-through.

For the past two weeks, I’ve sketched characters, made rough plot lines, and bulleted significant milieu changes I wish to institute in the final book of the series. I decided to give myself exactly two weeks, no more or less, and also to allow for a bit more discovery in this final volume. I’ve only very loosely plotted the first nine or so chapters.

But that does not constitute a great enough change to get me writing about writing again. Rather, it’s the will, perhaps the wish, to procrastinate. I’d hesitate to point to any particular states of mind or body that might be provoking this, but for the past week I’ve actually found legitimately difficult to begin writing in the morning. I have plans, I leave the story where I know the next few steps, I think periodically about what comes in the next few paces, yet when I sit down almost anything else will do. I’ve never experienced this before in work I do for myself and it’s not specific to writing—I’ve been putting off certification studying as well—but it is certainly worse in this than in other endeavors.

Hoping it passes or that at the very least routine wins the day.

Are you a procrastinator and if so, how does it affect you?  Is it manageable?  Is it regular?  What exacerbates it?

——

EDIT: Immediately upon finishing this post, I recalled a Salon post from this morning and went back and deleted all double spaces following periods. Follow-up question: How many of you double space needlessly because of confusing or flat out incorrect instruction as a student?

Narrow Roles for Leading Ladies - Saldana Edition

As I said, I loved Guardians of the Galaxy.  My lady and I went together and we both did.  Maybe me a little more, but superheroes and space opera?  Definitely more my thing.

Chelsea had just one bone to pick and it regarded Zoe Saldana.  Nothing bad about her Guardian performance, exactly, but a trend in her career that she finds problematic.  In Avatar, both recent Star Trek films, and Guardians, she seems to play a bad ass lady in very much the same way.  Hair, attitude, personality, gender relations, they all seem to be pretty much the same.  And Zoe Saldana is a traditionally attractive woman.  None of this is bad per say, but it augments a long standing archetype in how Hollywood portrays its few leading women.  Rather than embracing modern popular cinema as an opportunity to broaden how women are portrayed on the screen, the shallow range of leading women advances and cements the same old expectations and pigeon-holes women, young and old alike, into the same old roles rather than let them branch out and—I dunno—maybe flesh out the vast variety of women that actually exist.

Fast forward one week.  We both work in jobs that allow a little spare time on Fridays and she sent me this as illustration of others sharing the same view, specifically in regards to Zoe Saldana.  I rather enjoyed the brief conversation that followed and below is an edited version.

—-

Me:

Perfect and on point.  The thing about James Cameron asking if people wanted to “do” the Avatar ladies is disgusting but maybe there is some small benefit in his being explicit.  So much of this male gaze crap comes from people who think they’re operating on some higher social plane and then we still only get traditionally attractive bad ass ladies, to say nothing of other female or neuter archetypes.

Orange is the New Black did a really great job with their casting.  Lots of body and personality types and people all over the range in terms of traditional attractiveness.  And everyone loves that show.  I wish Hollywood would tune into our non-reptilian brains and see that we like stories about people, not stories about (and for) dudes.

Chels:

I feel if anything, in playing the same “other” (aka female alien) over and over she has actually LIMITED our view on women, not broadened. Women = hot, feisty, sexualized aliens. You can easily transpose that stereotype with our portrayal as women as witches, bosses, etc. There is nothing new here, and it’s just reinforcing it as we try to change it. I appreciate her enjoyment of the role, but she is not expanding any horizons on the female front.

Me:

Maybe fan conversations can start to change that.  Though, I don’t know how engaged with fan Zoe Saldana is.

Chels:

The other day I was thinking about A Million Ways to Die in the West, and if the story hadn’t been strictly satire of the Western film genre, Anna could have been a legitimate, fully-rounded, authentic female role. She’s not necessarily a tomboy (although they do a lot to make her contrast against Louise), and she’s not necessarily a “girly girl.” She’s feminine and masculine, sweet and upfront, witty and vulnerable. She pairs well with the male lead not because she’s a woman and there, but because they have honest chemistry and develop a realistic relationship over time. It’s believable. I was impressed by that.

Me:

I agree.  She was really interesting and broke my expectations a couple of times.

Now that I think about it, Seth MacFarlane usually does good job at playing with stereotypes and gender expectations to subvert them without relying purely on cheap jokes.  He has good co-writers and works with lots of different people, aggregating their ideas into his very popular style.  It can be hard to see in single episodes of his shows, which often make terribly sexist (or other -ist) jokes without explanation.  Over the arch of his characters, though, he shows a lot of respect for difference.

Not all the time, of course.  There are times when purely sexist or religious jokes go too far without much promise.  It’s really a shame A Million Ways wasn’t a better film because character-wise it was pretty strong.  Only maybe 3 or 4 full characters, but that can be rare for even the best comedies.

—-

We do women and men alike a disservice by showing either through a shallow, greased lens.  Time and again, media consumers show that they want a plurality of voices and, even more so, that they don’t need their hands held through exposure to new ideas.  Guardians of the Galaxy was great.  Let’s make the sequel even better.  Better yet, let’s apply the women-are-human-beings-too mantra to all popular cinema.  I bet it won’t hurt too much.

Guardians of the Galaxy - The Mid-Movie-Mantra Review

(While I will not technically spoil anything, you are are particularly sensitive to spoilers, I may tread some ground you’d rather leave virgin.  You’ve been warned.)

It.

Was.

Awesome.

As in The Avengers awesome, but with more comic relief.  I really love a series that doesn’t take itself too serious (Nolan’s Batman excepted) so this is a big plus for me.  Maybe I like it more than The Avengers…I don’t know.  Maybe.

I should say that while I have some pedigree as a comics nerd, it’s by no means impressive.  Prior to announcements for this movie, I was unaware of the GotG, so anything here comes from a relative newb, despite a decent knowledge of other parts of the Marvel Universe.

Not to belabor the trailers and similar promotions, the Guardians of the Galaxy are essentially a group of outlaws that band together—on screen rather than before the action—towards a similar goal.  But of course they find a reason to stay together and so on.  Duh.  Much like the Avengers.

So this film centers on Peter Quill of Terran birth, taken just after the death of his mother, Gamora, a modified soldier and assassin, Rocket Raccoon, a genetically modified raccoon badass, Groot, his anthropomorphic tree-humanoid muscle, and Drax the Destroyer, a grieving vigilante looking for justice for his family.  A quick look at Wikipedia says that their back-stories were barely scratched in the movie, yet each was well yet sparingly developed on screen.  There are plenty of other characters besides, but let’s move on in the interest of brevity and…well…interest.

I could give endless synopsis and go on and on, I”m sure, but instead I came up with an idea while watching for cataloging those elements I really enjoyed—somewhat extraneous to the plot at times—and adding to the list as the movie went on.  Find an element, reduce it to a word, repeat the mantra.

  1. Idioms - A lot of the movies humor relies on the fish-out-of-water or stranger-in-a-strange-land schticks.  Idioms don’t work cross culture, especially when speaking to a person whose own culture has no figurative speech, and Star-Lord is unable to learn the lesson.  Lots of funny word play humor to endear you even before you have a reason to like every character.
  2. Sexism - The movie does a good job of side stepping a lot of potentially sexist story holes while maintaining the sexual tension and messiah complexes we expect in heroes.  The scene that first drew my attention was one wherein Star-Lord makes no qualms about fighting an apparently equally matched woman.  Better than that, there is simply no mention of her being a woman.  She is attacking, he fights.  Simple as you like and perfectly done.
  3. Pop Culture - this movie is replete with hilarious references to Western pop culture.  To be fair, a tiny bit of Eastern too.  Laika? (EDIT: Whoops, that was evidently Cosmos.  See, I don’t know this Universe well)  Hell yeah.  And Bacon.  And, well, no more spoilies here.  The cultural references are done one better by being actually relevent to Star-Lord, rather than serving a singular purpose to make characters funny or identifiable.
  4. Infinity - Specifically, the stones.  When Thanos is first shown, I knew he looked familiar without initially knowing the crossover with the Avengers universe.  Of course he is in the post-credit scene in The Avengers and seeks other of the Infinity stones.  What that amounts to is this movie being a non-Earth-centric, humorous, b-class hero Avengers.  I’m all about that.
  5. Groot - As a lover of Le Guin and, further, her particular interest in alternate forms of intelligence and cognition as seen in the natives of The Word for World is Forest and the trees in a short story for which I cannot recall a title, I really loved that Groot personality was collective rather than singular, playful but powerful, and loyal.  Groot, despite a three (or maybe four) world vocabulary was exactly what I’d think a moving, talking tree might be.

There is plenty else to love in Guardians of the Galaxy, not least the amazing actions sequences and well-developed alien worlds and ships, but I’ll leave it there.  If you have any interest in action blockbusters or comics or comedic action flicks, this is definitely one to see on the big screen.

EDIT: Great piece at io9 that elaborates and points to differences in teh book and film canons.

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