Wednesday Videos: Marvel and DC Give Thanks and then Fight

WednesdayVideoHey, hope you are all having a happy Thanksgiving week! Here’s what Marvel and DC are thankful for:

And you know what would make me thankful? If this movie ever got made. Check out this amazing fan trailer for a Marvel/DC movie in which all the heroes and villains of the franchises go head to head. Here’s Part I:

And Part II which is basically 7 minutes of glorious combat:

Fifteen Things I’m Grateful For Right Now

Happy Thanksgiving - pumpkins and apples for Thanksgiving

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, of course. In that spirit, here are fifteen things I’m grateful for. Specifically, these are relatively small things (it’s a bit heavy on soccer mom type things, to be honest). Of course I’m thankful for friends and family and all that but sometimes nothing lift sinking spirits like the realization that we currently live in a world with Wi-Fi. Here you go:

I’m grateful for rain (I live in California, we are all very excited about this).

I’m grateful for that miraculous weather event wherein where it stops raining just long enough to go for my walk (or, as I like to call it, my daily constitutional).

Chronic pain peeps, you will understand: I’m super grateful for when I wake up and only one thing hurts, especially when it doesn’t hurt very much. It’s kind of thrilling.

I’m grateful that my tween still wants me to read her books and watch her TV shows. On a related note, I’m grateful for Bradley James on Merlin and his aversion to shirts.

Also grateful for Lancelot's shampoo!

Also grateful for Lancelot’s shampoo, Gwaine’s snark, and Percival’s silly, silly sleeveless outfits.

I’m grateful for the fact that I can read books on my phone. This is no longer new technology but I never failed to be thrilled by it.

On a similar note – WI-FI. I am grateful for Wi-Fi. I recall a time when there was no Wi-Fi. I recall a time when there was no Internet. And no Wikipedia, without which my current professional life would not be possible. I’m grateful for blog posts that make me think seriously about issues of the day. I’m also grateful for Grumpy Cat.

Equal Exchange Hot Cocoa, you are my reason for being. Bless you.

We got a new roof this summer. It did not seem likely to ever rain in California again so I was not properly grateful when I wrote the check. It’s raining and I’m grateful.

I’m grateful for JK Rowling, who has transformed all our lives into a never-ending series of arguments about how magic work, exactly, and whether Hermione and Ron were really Meant to Be (NO THEY WERE NOT).

They don't get it either.

They don’t get it either.

I’m grateful that Starbucks is selling lattes in “short” sizes. Yes, they are ridiculously expensive. Whatever. Don’t judge me.

You know that moment when four great songs come on the radio in a row, and the next thing you know you are barreling down the highway belting out Def Leppard while fluffing up your hair with one hand? Yeah, I’m grateful for that.

I’m grateful that on a clear day I can see the mountains when I drive from Sacramento to Folsom.

I’m grateful for all the female friendships on Agents of S.H..I.L.D. and for the renewal of Agent Carter.

I’m grateful for Kamala Khan, Saga, and Bitch Planet!


I’m grateful to everyone who makes me laugh and to conventions that feel like home.

And of course I am grateful for YOU, my readers! Happy Thanksgiving – try not to kill your families, at least not until after the pie.


Between the Lines Book Club: Five Facts About Nigeria

between the lines book club logoThis month Between the Lines Book Club is reading Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. We meet here every Friday, and our next in person meeting is on November 21, 2015, at Arden Dimick Library, Sacramento, California, at 10:30AM.

Americanah tells the story of two Nigerians who spend many years of their lives abroad and then return to Nigeria. In honor of the book, here are five things to know about this amazing country:

  1. What is now Nigeria was once the Benin Empire. It was established in approximately 1180 and lasted until it was taken over by the British in 1897. The Empire included at least one great city (Benin City), a high value on the arts, international trade (including trade with Europeans, starting with the Portuguese in 1485), and a massive army.

Drawing of Benin City, 1897

2. Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa and the seventh most populated country in the world. It’s inhabitants practice Christianity, Islam, and a variety of traditional spiritual practices and religions. The country is made up of over five hundred ethnic groups, including Igbo, Yoruba, Hausa, and Fulani.

3. Nigeria’s wealth comes from oil and agriculture. Its biggest export crop is cocoa. Nigeria is the fourth largest cocoa producer in the world (the top three are The Ivory Coast, Indonesia, and Ghana).


4. The country won independence from Britain in 1960. After a Civil War, it was governed by a series of military juntas. Military rule ended in 1999. Since then , the country has been a democracy. In 2015, in elections that were generally considered mostly fair by international observers, Muhammadu Buhari was elected president.

5. Nigeria is home to Yankari National Park. This park covers 2,250 square kilometers (870 square miles) of land. It is composed of grasslands, hills, hot water springs, and rivers. It is home to the largest population of elephants in West Africa.


Classic Sci Fi: Ishmael, by Barbara Hambly

51VD4QQGZRL._SX281_BO1,204,203,200_Before there was fan fic on the Internet, there were official spin-off novels – still are, in fact. Star Trek attracted an amazing array of women who were writing science fiction in the 1980s. Writers included A.C. Crispin, Diane Carey, Diana Duane, and Vonda N. McIntyre. Tim Hanley has a great article about the high number of Star Trek novel writers who were women, and the high quality of their work, over at Straitened Circumstances.

From 1968 – 1970, there was a show called Here Come the Brides, about a group of women who come to Seattle to get married in 1860. Many performers on the show appeared later in Star Trek: The Original Series, including Mark Leonard, who ended up playing Sock’s father, and Jane Wyatt, who played Spock’s mother.

I never saw Here Come the Brides, but I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have watched the show and thought, “Hey, that looks like great material for a Star Trek story.” Luckily, Barbara Hambly did, and she wrote a novel that is bittersweet, balancing humor, horror, pathos, action, sorrow, and joy, sometimes within a single sentence. Spock is kidnapped by Klingons, tortured, and finds himself with no memory in the woods in 1860. Aaron Stemple (the main character in Here Come the Brides) discovers him, takes him in, and helps him recover. Aaron calls him ‘Ishmael’, and as Ishmael Spock becomes involved in the lives of the Seattle characters. Meanwhile, Kirk believes that Spock is dead, but he also believes that Klingons have travelled to Seattle to change the course of history, The story moves back and forth between Ishmael’s attempts to find his place in the world and Kirk’s attempts to solve a mystery.

Barbara Hambly excels at conveying a sense of place, and both the spaceport where the Enterprise is docked and the muddy woods of Washington State feel sharply real. I can’t speak to how well the book handles Here Come the Brides, but it does a lovely job of giving the Star Trek characters additional depth while staying true to the series. Additionally, the book features a number of women in central roles – scientists, a woman who is a doctor in Seattle, the women who come to Seattle to marry, all of whom have their own personalities and dreams, and of course Uhura, who kicks butt in an alley. It’s delightful to see so many “strong female characters” who are all strong in different ways – and who Ishmael respects and has great empathy towards.

The written format means that Hambly can have some fun with aliens, who on TV were usually humanoid. The book features one of my favorite aliens, Aurelia, a Drelb. Drelbs are basically a mass of protoplasm, and they change color and odor with their emotions. They also like to make people comfortable, so when Aurelia speaks to Kirk she changes a tentacle to a hand, and produces eyes, purely out of courtesy:

The Drelb’s glutinous bulk faded from rose to yellow, and developed bright kelly green stripes. The long eyelashes blinks, and somewhere in the protoplasm there was a shifting and a round knobbly tongued mouth formed. A soft voice inquired, “Is the problem theoretical?”

“In a sense,” Kellogg pulled up a stool to perch on.

The blue eyes turned toward Kirk again, studying him. Then suddenly a deep blue suffered the entire tall cone, and that soft voice said, “Deep sorrow with you in your grief, Jim Kirk.”

Even with no prior knowledge of either series, a reader could instantly feel at home in both worlds described in this book, and would relate to and care about the characters. The book is a masterpiece of concise world-building and characterization. It has scenes that are quiet gems of fun, and it has scenes of great sorrow and compassion. Above all, it’s a very kind book – for all that the Klingons are involved in an evil plan, the other characters are capable of great kindness and sympathy. It’s a great book about found family, and like most books that involve time travel, there’s some fate as well.

Incidentally, science fiction fans will notice references to Doctor Who, Battlestar Gallactica, Star Wars, and several Western shows. This book will bring a lot of tears but even through the tears it never stops having fun.

Between the Lines Book Club: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

between the lines book club logoThis month in Book Club we are reading Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. If you are in Sacramento, join us in person at Arden Dimick Library for our 4th Saturday book club at 10:30AM on Saturday November 21. If you are joining us online, leave your comments below!

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie was born in Nigeria in 1977. She left Nigeria for the United States when she was nineteen, where she attended university in Philadelphia and Connecticut. She has a Masters in Creative Writing from John Hopkins, a Masters in African Studies form Yale, and has had fellowships at Princeton and Harvard. The Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Website has a more detailed biography, as well as links to several of her interviews and essays.


Chimamanda’s first works were poems and short stories. She published a novel, Purple Hibiscus, in 2005, and a second novel, Half of a Yellow Sun, in 2007. She has also published a short story anthology, The Thing Around Your Neck. All of her books have been critically acclaimed.

Here are two Ted Talks by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie:

We Should All Be Feminists

A section of this talk was sampled by Beyonce in her song, “Flawless.”:

We teach girls to shrink themselves, to make themselves smaller
We say to girls: “You can have ambition, but not too much
You should aim to be successful, but not too successful
Otherwise, you will threaten the man”
Because I am female, I am expected to aspire to marriage
I am expected to make my life choices
Always keeping in mind that marriage is the most important
Now, marriage can be a source of joy and love and mutual support
But why do we teach girls to aspire to marriage
And we don’t teach boys the same?
We raise girls to see each other as competitors
Not for jobs or for accomplishments, which I think can be a good thing
But for the attention of men
We teach girls that they cannot be sexual beings in the way that boys are
Feminist: a person who believes in the social
Political, and economic equality of the sexes

She also did a Ted Talk called “The Danger of a Single Story.” In it, she makes this already iconic statement:

The single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story.

Wednesday Videos: A Trip to the Moon

WednesdayVideoLook what I found! A Trip to the Moon – often considered the first science fiction movie ever! This movie had a bit of a resurrection due to being featured in the movie Hugo. The short film (about fifteen minutes) was made in 1902 using theatrical tricks and the “stop trick” effect. Incidentally, on youtube you’ll find a variety of background soundtracks – they are all fair game. The silent film was intended to be played with a soundtrack accompaniment, but creator George Melies never specified what music should be played.

You can find five Melies films and information about them at Open Culture (