1. Joss Whedon.
2. People Who Make Stuff, whether practical, fantastical, or both.
3. Guys who got our backs: Wil Wheaton, John Scalzi, Jim C. Hines.
4. Seeing Amy Acker and Alexis Densiof together in Much Ado About Nothing.
5. The Marvel Universe.
6. Tom Hiddleston and Cookie Monster.
7. The Hubble Space Telescope
8. Arrow and Canary smiling at each other during fight scenes.
9. Being a guest for the first time at a con – Thank you, Convolution!
10. Kid-appropriate comic books.
11. Saga – not a kid appropriate comic book!
12. Seanan McGuire and Mira Grant.
13. Seeing SFWA change from within – keep at it!
14. N.K. Jemisin and Saladin Ahmed, whose books and twitter feeds challenge and delight me every day.
15. Reading Terry Pratchett and Douglas Adams to my daughter at bedtime.
17. The steampunk bamboo biplane in Tai Chi Zero.
18. Field Trips.
19. Blood Donors.
20. Blue collar workers – they make the world I live in. Thank you.
22. Scientists, mad or otherwise.
23. Writers who support their fellow writers.
24. Natalie Portman, for her “Be the next Jane Foster” program.
25. BAMF Girls Club.
26. Kickstarter and Etsy.
27. YouTube videos that make me smile.
29. Having too much to read.
30. Geek Girl in Love readers!
This month’s Hidden Hero is Grace Hopper, who lived from 1906 – 1992. Who’s Grace Hopper, you say? Oh, she’s just did some programming – by which I mean among other things, she was instrumental in the development of COBAL. I can’t come close to understanding her computer work, but here’s what I gather – one of the most significant reasons that people can tell a computer to do things other than numerical calculations is that Grace invented the language with which to do so. Also, she spent a little time in the Navy – by which I mean, she was a Rear Admiral. Grace’s nickname was “Amazing Grace” and seldom has a nickname been better earned.
Here’s a rundown of Grace’s computer work. This comes from wvegter.hivemind.net. During WWII, Grace worked on Harvard I, the first large-scale computer, as well as the Mark II and Mark III. She was the first female computer programmer – not counting Ada Lovelace, who programmed the very first computer, which is another story in and of itself.
Grace then went on to develop the first compiler. I am so computer illiterate that as far as I can tell this blog is delivered to your computer in the dead of night, by elves. But my limited understanding is that a compiler is basically a program that allows a human being to enter commands into a computer in a programming language that is human-friendly, with those commands then being translated into programming language that is more computer friendly. Among other things, it means that you don’t have to give commands to your computer in binary code. Grace was instrumental in developing COBAL (Common Business Oriented Language).
Grace Hopper achieved a rank of Rear Admiral and retired at the age of 80 to become a senior consultant at Digital Equipment Corporation. Amazing Grace is credited with having polarized the term “debugging” a computer, a term she and her colleagues used after they found an actual bug (a moth) in the Mark II. Here’s a few quotes by this amazing woman:
A ship in port is safe, but that is not what ships are built for. Sail out to sea and try new things.
It’s easier to ask forgiveness than to get permission.
You manage things. You lead people.
wikiquote has more of her quotes, with the sources listed, and a little more context about the quotes.
If you really want to know about Amazing Grace Hopper, you HAVE to check out this cartoon from Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal. Here’s one teeny panel to lure you in. READ IT! DO IT NOW! Sorry, I was having a moment – it’s really funny! Here is link: http://www.smbc-comics.com/?id=2516
Friday Book Club is going on a bit of a vacation, but we will be back in January with a three-month series that features humor writing. If the last series, Gothic Literature, made you mopey, then January should perk you right up.
Our January book will be: Thank You, Jeeves, by P.G. Wodehouse.
This classic British comedy is the first full-length Jeeves novel, and what a joy it is, as the unflappable butler, Jeeves, has not one but two upper-class idiots to take care of. Thank You, Jeeves was published in 1934. I’m still waiting for the final Jeeves installment, which I’m sure will come any day now: Jeeves, Put Down that Uzi!
The February Book Will Be: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams
I can’t imagine humor, or science fiction, or…well, anything, without this delightful book. The Guide has been a radio show, a TV show, and audiobook, a hollywood film, a stage play, and of course a trilogy consisting of five books (not a typo). Follow the insane adventures of Arthur Dent, Earthman, as he travels though space with his friend Ford Prefect, fellow earthling Trillian, the two-headed party boy and President of the Galaxy Zaphod Beeblebrox, and the eternally depressed robot Marvin (“Life. Don’t talk to me about Life”).
And for the Grand Finale: 700 Sundays, by Billy Crystal
700 Sundays is a change of pace, from wacky madcap British comedy to bittersweet autobiography from one of America’s most beloved comics. In this book, Billy Crystal talks about the family and friends who supported and inspired him.
So, start reading now, and join us back here for Friday Book club, starting January 3rd!
In this week’s very special episode of S.H.I.E.L.D., we learn about the lasting effects of trauma. We find out that not everyone on Asgard knows everyone else, and we discover yet again that it’s very important to watch this show all the way to the end.
First of all, I’m writing this late at night and off the cuff – please excuse any typos. Late night blogging is never my friend. Also, this is short.
Second of all, this movie had three great moments, and they are all very spoilery, so I’m not going to talk that much about this actual episode.
Here’s the great moments:
1. Inspired guest casting. This show really brings it in terms of hiring great guest actors. Every minute with the professor, played by Peter MacNicol, was delightful. I shall say no more.
2. The theme of trauma. Grant’s memories are freaking awful. Child in peril trigger warning alert. Meanwhile, Agent May takes the episode to a whole new episode with her own reaction to traumatic memory. In every episode , there’s at least one line that makes me unwilling to give up on the show. Her line, “Because I see it every day” is the line that keeps me going this week. Fantastic.
3. The last one minute and thirty seconds.
Right now the only current TV shows I’m watching are S.H.I.E.L.D. and Arrow, and I vastly prefer Arrow. Arrow is a ridiculous show, yet it’s deeply satisfying, because it knows exactly what it is. Arrow is so ridiculous that at in one episode Ollie swings from a rope-like object (Tarzan style) to whisk a girl out of danger not once but twice. Twice in one episode. Once, without a shirt. With every second that I watch Arrow, I feel dumber and happier.
But Arrow gets us deeply invested in its soapy characters in a way that SHIELD (I’m bored with including the periods) has yet to manage, and it moves the plot along with every episode – not in tiny increments, but in large steps. Every episode ends with a question answered (Who is Canary?) and a question asked (will Ollie reveal her identity now that he knows it?). The cinematography allows it to do a lot with a little, and the fight scenes are excellent. Arrow is a soapy, silly, fun show and it knows it and it delivers fun, soapy, superhero derring-do and surprisingly realistic character development every single week. If it’s not your cup of tea, you’ll know right away and never waste a moment of your time on it. It delivers what it promises to deliver.
SHIELD does not seem to know what it’s doing. We’re now in episode eight and the show still hasn’t kicked into gear. I enjoy watching it, but I don’t think about the show in between episodes. It’s still just “OK” and I’m getting a little pissy about it. Every episode has some interesting stuff going on but not enough to make any particularly wonderful episodes. The next episode is supposed to be May-centric, so I live in hope.
If you are like me, you have a few days left until you are surrounded by family. Family everywhere! Which is…GREAT! Or, if you are not with family, you are either weeping into a plate of mashed potatoes or dancing a happy dance – it’s really all a matter of perspective. Regardless, here is your quick guide to two geek-friendly movies that you can drag your bus load of relatives to, or see by yourself (no sharing popcorn, yay).
What it says it is: A romantic comedy about time travel.
What the script says it is: A movie about father/son relationships, and about growing up.
Action level: Zip. Nada. No explosions at all.
Romance level: High, but not as high as the ads would have you think. Most of the romance stuff happens in the first half of the movie.
See it with: Your parents and your grandparents.
If they can handle: Swearing, a little bit of partial nudity (cute and comedic, not super sexy), non-explicit sex.
Avoid it if: You have daddy issues and/or have recently lost a parent. I bawled the whole time. Tim’s father is the one we all wish we had or that we all hope we’ll grow up to be (those of us who identify as fathers, that is). Quite good for a cathartic cry but unless you want your cathartic cry to be public, see it by yourself if daddy issues are your thing.
Capsule review: This movie is funny, touching, and sweet. I giggled like a maniac and cried like a baby. But it is also deeply flawed. It doesn’t work as a time travel movie, because the rules are broken at the filmmaker’s whim. The time travel is strictly a poetical device. It doesn’t work as a romantic comedy, because the focus is only one character, Tim, and all other characters are strictly subordinate. Despite its flaws, it’s quite a lovely movie about learning to appreciate an “extraordinary, ordinary life”.
You can find a a full-length review at Smart Bitches, Trashy Books
Thor: The Dark World
What it says it is: A movie in which Thor has to save the universe from dark elves.
What the script says it is: A character-based comedy/drama about how Thor has to redefine his role and his relationships after the events in The Avengers.
What we (the audience) thinks it is: Loki 3. Let’s be honest, folks.
Action level: Huge.
Romance level: Medium.
See it with: Your siblings and your cousins. Your friends. Yourself, if you are stranded on Thankgiving and want to escape into fun and excitement for a while. Your grandparents will think it’s weird.
If they can handle: Violence, some death, minimal gore. It’s just a smidgen more graphic than The Avengers. There’s minimal swearing, a shirtless scene (of Chris Hemsworth), no sex. Might be too scary for little kids.
Avoid it if: You would have to see it with people who think superhero movies are lame. Who needs that attitude when you want to kick back and watch Loki run amok in peace? This is another movie about family issues, and it involves estrangement and loss although it never gets so angst that it stops being fun.
Capsule review: This is a fun movie with both humor and pathos and some romance. The dynamic between Thor and Loki adds emotional stakes to the visual splendor and the clever climatic fight scene. The over-arching plot, about evil elves, is ridiculous and serves purely as a device to keep the characters we care about running around and interacting. Loki steals the show, as usual, but praise is due to Chris Hemsworth as well who grounds the whole enterprise and has some good snark of his own.
This month’s Gateway Drugs is brought to you by my thirteen year old girl partner in crime, who shall henceforth be referred to as Meiko. I know nothing about anime so I called in an expert! Without further ado, here’s the words of our Young Adult anime guru, Meiko:
First I asked Meiko for some background. Meiko, what is anime?
Anime is a style of drawing and japanese animation. It can be about anything, science fiction, or fantasy, or everyday life. I prefer the ones that are comedy.
So Meiko, what should I be watching?
It’s about a girl who has a crush on a boy and is nervous about it. It’s something you could sit down and watch with your family.
Going Home Club
It’s about a girl trying to find out how much fun they can have in their club before they have to go home. It’s a comedy anime. It is suitable for all ages.
Attack on Titan
This one if more for older kids, like thirteen and up. The titans come down and try to eat people. I don’t get that one, but my uncle likes it, and you might like it if you like science fiction.
It’s mainly about a girl who meets a cat that can talk. A bunch of girls get together because they have superpowers, and they try to protect a princess. This could probably be for any age.
My friend likes this one. It’s about a boy who signs a contract with a demon, and now the demon is the boy’s butler. But to get the demon butler, the boy gave up his soul. My friend thinks it’s interesting because it’s different from most animes. Most animes aren’t about angels and demons combined – or butlers. This is more for middle or high school kids or adults.
It’s about people fighting gods because they think their lives are unfair. I like it because it’s interesting. If people die they come back to life. My other uncle recommended it to me. It’s also for grades eight and up I think.
This is about a guy with a demon dog and a girl who falls into a well, into an alternate universe. She frees the demon dog. She and the dog have to find all the shards of a crystal because if it gets in the hands of evil, the world will be destroyed. This one is good for ages thirteen and fourteen.
So to everyone else online, what are your thoughts? What anime should I be watching? It’s a whole new world out there.
In real life, Wales was quite heavily bombed during WWII, particularly in the areas of Cardiff and Swansea. At one point Swansea was heavily bombed for three nights in a row. Roughly thirty thousand bombs were dropped during the Swansea Blitz. One woman famously responded to a query about where her husband was with these words, “He’s in the army, the coward”.
During the war, 984 people were killed in Wales by bombs, and thousands more were injured or made homeless. Most raids took place between 1940 and 1942. This site has more details. The bombing of Wales was much smaller in scale than the bombing of London, but the devastation of Swansea and Cardiff in particular, and the effect on morale in Wales in general, was significant.
Most of the bombing in Wales targeted industrial dock towns, and children from urban Wales and from London were often evacuated to rural Welsh locations. But just being in a rural village did not necessarily mean safety. Some bombers heading to or from London dropped bombs on rural villages, either on purpose or accidentally. According to bbc.co.uk:
In April 1941, 27 people lost their lives in a raid on Cwmparc in the Rhondda; six of them were children, including four evacuees. A miner recalled of seeing the coffins: ‘That’s when you realised there was a war on’.
One of the most evocative scenes in the book takes place when Jacob realizes that the ocean is full of sunken vessels from WWII, some of which become very important to the plot. This may seem far-fetched, but looked what turned up on the beach in 2007!
This plane, an American P-38, crashed on a Welsh beach in 1942 and was buried by sand. A family discovered the plane in 2007 when some of the sand had shifted. The full story of the discovery is at telegraph.uk. Since the discovery, the plane has been partially reburied, and preservationists hope to keep the exact location secret until they can raise the plane and get it to a museum.
I love these photos so much that I wanted to write a whole separate feature about them. My family and I were standing in line waiting to get some books autograph by Wendy and Brian Froud. The line was very long, because everyone loves the Froud family. and it was moving very slowly, because apparently the Froud family loves everyone. When you got to the front of the line, they didn’t just sign you book – they hugged you, and let you take a few photos, and chatted for a few minutes. Because they are wonderful.
So anyway, we were getting a little restless and dare I say a tad cranky when I noticed that the woman behind me had a great hand tattoo. then I realized that it was actually a drawing – and she was doing this drawing at that very moment, with a regular ballpoint pen.
When we oohed and awed she looked at my daughter and said, “Want me to do one for you?” So that’s what we did while we waited for our turn in the line – we watched this woman do gorgeous art on my daughter’s hand with a ballpoint pen. I don’t know why I’m so enchanted by the fact that this all took place with an ordinary pen but the combination of an everyday object, an intricate and fascinating final outcome, and a great moment of kindness just charmed the socks off me.
You might notice the earrings the woman is wearing – she makes them herself and sells them on etsy. Her name is Laura Franklin, and you can find her jewelry at Never4gottenFantasy.etsy.com.
Thank you, Laura, for a lovely memory! BTW, the earrings are made from beetles wings, and she promises me that they are naturally shed and that the beetles aren’t killed for their wings. So you can enjoy your jewelry guilt free!
I’m still glowing from the lovely weekend I spent at Convolution. I hugged the Froud family! I was on two panels with Wendy Pini! I discussed female narrators with Richard Kadrey! I sang terrible, terrible karaoke! I danced with my husband! I had a good time, is what I’m saying.
When I go to these events I’m so moved by how friendly and welcoming everyone is. There are always a few people who make it a point to reach out to me, introduce me to others, help me network, and just make me feel generally comfortable – a hard thing to do since mingling at a party is not one of my life skills. Left to my own devices, I could easily make it through a whole weekend without ever managing to talk to anyone – but my peeps do not allow that to happen. People I had never met before introduced me to others, encouraged me when I was nervous about moderating panels for the first time, and swore that they totally did not even notice that one time that I knocked over a glass of water and then sat in it. Thank you all!
This was the very first time I attended a convention as a guest. It was such an honor. To be in the company of such creative people, and to be sitting at the table at those panels – it made me woozy. And when I say “creative people”, I don’t just mean the guests of honor, who are some of my creative heroes (Wendy and Richard Pini, of Elfquest fame, Brian and Wendy Froud, Richard Kadrey). I also mean my fellow convention-goers. Every single person I talked to made something. some of us blog, some build things, some game, some make music, some design and make costumes – there was every kind of artist. Whether or not we were “professional” was entirely beside the point. The point was that we were all profoundly passionate.
Here’s some pics from Convolution. One thing is clear – if I’m going to keep this up, I absolutely must learn some photography skills. There’s nothing high quality about these images. But I do hope they will give you a sense of some of the lovely cosplay I saw!
I left Captain Hook chatting with my mom, who sews, and when I caught up to them again my mom said, “Oh honey, she’s been giving me lots of ideas”. Now I am both excited and afraid.
The Belle of the Ball! Oh, c’mon – you know someone had to say it.
The second generation! Toby Froud’s baby, his wife, Sarah, and an elf. If we count Wendy and Brian Froud as Generation One, this is actually Generation Two and Three.
I don;t know how many outfits this woman has, but I’ve seen her at two cons now, and she had a different costume on every time I saw her, and they were all stunning.
This guy guarded the Klingon Party. The second floor was the party room and EVERYONE wanted to go to the Klingon Party. “COME IN!” He growled. “IT’S VERY UNSAFE HERE!”
This couple sang, “I’ll Never Tell”, from the musical episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, at Karaoke night. It was adorable. And don’t they look awesome?
Another stunning couple.
I love this woman’s attitude!
Last but not least, me, proudly sporting the famous Geek Girl in Love cape. For decorative purposes only. Not recommended for use in combat. Do not wear near open flame or jet engines.
And now for an encore presentation! some of you saw this back in October, when I blearily typed in “October 8” instead of “Nov 8th”. Late night blogging is a dangerous, dangerous business. But now it is actually Novemeber, so here (again) is some info on Miss Peregrine!
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, by Ransom Riggs, is a compelling story. But if you ask someone, “Hey, have you read Miss Peregrine?” the odds are that the reply won’t be, “You mean the one about the kids in time loop?” The reply will be, “You mean the one with all those creepy photos?” The story is built around the photos, and the photos are unforgettably strange.
Some people’s reaction to the photos is to run away screaming. Others want to see more. If you have an interest in vintage trick photography, here are a few links to get you started. First of all, you’ll want to check out this article by the author of Miss Peregrine, Ransom Riggs. In this article, Riggs explains how he found the photos. Here’s an excerpt:
You find a lot of junk when you’re searching through lost and tossed photo ephemera, but every so often you’ll find a gem, a wallet-sized masterpiece you’re certain could hang on the wall of a gallery if only someone with a name had taken it. Find one or two of those and you’re hooked for life.
Every snapshot collector has obsessions. Some only collect photos of cars. Others like World War II, or babies, or old-timey girls in old-timey swimsuits. I happen to collect the weird stuff: photos that make the hair on the back of your neck stand up a little. The uncanny. I don’t mean circus freaks and kids in Halloween costumes, either — I mean photos that seem wrong in a way that’s hard to put your finger on, so unusual they make you look at them a second and then a third time, then reward you with uneasy dreams. The kind of photos that seem to stare at you from across a room.
You can find the full article at huffingtonpost.com
If you have an interest in vintage trick photography, you can start at the beginning – the Victorians were quite interested in it. The website io9 has done several articles on odd Victorian photos. This article by Cyrique Lamar has some truly bizarre trick photography stuff, including the mummy photo below, showing that trick photography has been around as long as, well, photography. This article also has links to vintage photos of ventriloquist dummies and early cosplay.
For a range of trick photos including Victorian and photos from the early and mid-1900s, this flickr group is a treasure trove. Here’s a cat, proving that even before the Internet, people know what photography was REALLY for – cat pictures.
The first part of this episode is boring. The second part comes out of nowhere and is harrowing and surprising and touching. If this show could just learn to be like that for a full episode instead of half an episode, it would be phenomenal.
The first half of this episode is about the team trying to figure out how a camp counselor died. He was a firefighter, and the team discovers that there are other victims of this mysterious cause of death who are also firefighters. This part is dull.
But then, Coulson determines that a firefighter who was a first responder in New York is infected with a Chitauri virus and is about to die. And then we do care – because Coulson does, and he stays with the man as long as he can, offering to call his family and telling him that he (Coulson) was dead, and that what he saw when he died was beautiful.
Mystery solved! Episode over! No wait – it’s not, because the body of the first victim had been brought onto the plane, and Simmons was infected while examining the body. She has an estimated two hours to live, they can’t land because they are over the ocean, and her death will cause an electronic surge that will destroy the plane, which is why Jacob from Lost orders Coulson to “jettison the cargo”.
So Simmons is on one side of a quarantine door trying to make a cure for herself. Fitz is on the other side, trying to help her without being in the lab, until he basically says, “screw quarantine” and just comes in. Ward and Skye are regulated to the background (finally!) where they are frantic from feeling helpless, and Coulson, supported by May, is trying to stall his superiors and figure out what to do, and I have all the feels.
So without spoiling everything completely, here’s some of the best lines – I say some, because there were a ton of great lines this week. Coulson has several conversations with May that are vulnerable and scary and sad that I didn’t even try to sum up. Beautiful writing, beautiful acting.
Agent May, interrogating a camp leader: “Have a cookie.”
Simmons: “It’s science, Fitz! I have to dissect something!”
Coulson, eyeing a locked barn door: “We could ram it with the truck.” May kicks the door open. “Or…”
Coulson: “Do you have any idea what it’s like dealing with the Moroccan office?”
This episode was strong (once it got going) for several reasons:
- We finally got to see an episode that revolved around characters other than Skye. I may be the only person on the Internet who actually likes Skye, but I’ve been dying to see some other people, and Fitz and Simmons, and to a lesser extent May and Coulson, were fun and touching. Untrained, terrified Fitz grabbing a parachute may be the most heroic thing I’ve ever seen.
- Sometimes Coulson can be a little bit too, dare I say, robotic (maybe literally! who knows!) but in this episode we got all the Coulsons: the cocky, confident Coulson, the scared, vulnerable Coulson, the compassionate Coulson, and the Dad.
- There was real suspense in this episode, some of which stems from the fact that the Whedonverse is famous for killing off regulars, often quite early. I give you the episode “Hero”, from Angel, Season One.
- The show has promised to ask what the world would be like for people after the discovery of superheroes and demo-gods and aliens. Up until know, the show has mostly dealt with that by throwing around new exciting technology for our team to capture. This episode showed how helpless and outmatched humans can be in this new world that they are profoundly ignorant about and unprepared to battle. It wasn’t nihilistic, but it was real.
- Above all, I finally feel like I care about the characters. I care about Ward, who wishes the danger to Simmons was a person so he could punch it. I care about Skye, who cuts through a lot of crap by hugging. I care about Coulson and May, whose scars remind them to move forward. And boy howdy do I care about Fitz and Simmons, who up until now were background noise.
See you next week, team. Try not to die on me in the meantime, OK?