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!

MqrCFAp

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.

giphy

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_made_by_an_English_officer_1897

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).

cocoa

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.

ph_17097_59610

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-bio

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 (openculture.com).

Down with the Holidays, Up With Pajamas

61264fe8b541895d1fd79cf0539415ecLike everyone else in America this week, I have a cold. As colds go it’s not a bad one. In fact, I may be the most healthy person in the United States of America at this moment. However, it is leaving me so tired that today my daughter physically dragged me to bed and bombarded me with stuffed animals and one very confused live dog until I consented to go to sleep.

I’ve observed that everyone else has this same cold, or a worse cold, or the flu, and yet the holidays are already upon us. We made it through my husband’s birthday, my daughter’s birthday, and Halloween, and now I have to start my Thanksgiving baking before I even had a proper chance to eat all the leftover Trick or Treat candy. We have an early Thanksgiving this weekend with local family and official Thanksgiving a week later with San Diego Family and then Xmas. I certainly can’t complain about all this and yet I also can’t stay awake. Since everyone feels blah, I’d like to make the following suggestion:

Thanksgiving is cancelled. I have abolished it, using the powers divested in me by the Internet. I have also permanently cancelled Christmas. Relax, Christians, it’s not personal. I’m also abolishing Hanukkah, Diwali, Rohatsu, Solstice, Saturnalia, Festivus, Office Parties,and any lunar holiday that happens to fall between October and January.

In place of the October through December Holidays, I’d like to propose a three-month long festival known as The Season of the Pajamas. We shall celebrate by wearing pajamas – to the store, to work, to school, wherever. During these three months, there are no set paid holidays – instead everyone gets unlimited paid sick leave. Saying that you “have the blahs” counts as sick. It is also permissible to say, “I just don’t feel like getting up.” Needless to say, if you do go to work/school/Walmart, you will do so in PJs (no big change regarding Walmart).

There are no gift exchanges during this time. Nor is there decor. However, there is usually a run on blankets and pillows during this season.

Our festive foods will be instant soup, pizza, and tea. Gatherings are forbidden except in cases of group movie marathons on cushions and large couches. TV show binges are also permitted. Instead of being judged on how clean and well-decorated your house is, you will be judged on how sloppy it is, since in the spirit of sloth, one is to neglect housekeeping during this time. Think of it as a housekeeping fast. You may serve your guests hot beverages of the instant variety, soda, popcorn, and pizza. Carry out pizza, not some home-fired-in-the-backyard-pizza-oven stuff. Do not desecrate Pajama Season by cooking during this slothful time.

You may notice, that, just like the current holiday season, some toil while others rest. For those who agree to make pizza for the rest of us and keep Netflix in proper working order, there is a mandatory trade-off period – those of us who celebrate Pajama Season must give these hard workers corresponding time off during Flip Flop Season. Fair is fair.

I with you all a very slothful Pajama Season. You can get dressed gain on January 30th which will give you two weeks to prepare for All Kinds Of Love Including But Very Much Not Limited To Romantic Love Day in February. Enjoy.

Between the Lines Book Club: Americana

between the lines book club logoWelcome to a new Book Club month. We’re reading Americana, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. We will meet in person at the Arden Dimick Library in Sacramento, CA at 10:30AM on November 21.

Americanah is the third novel by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, a Nigerian author. Here’s the plot synopsis, courtesy of Amazon:

Ifemelu and Obinze are young and in love when they depart military-ruled Nigeria for the West. Beautiful, self-assured Ifemelu heads for America, where despite her academic success, she is forced to grapple with what it means to be black for the first time. Quiet, thoughtful Obinze had hoped to join her, but with post-9/11 America closed to him, he instead plunges into a dangerous, undocumented life in London. Fifteen years later, they reunite in a newly democratic Nigeria, and reignite their passion—for each other and for their homeland.

The book won considerable critical acclaim for it’s take on race in Africa and the US. From Chimamanda’s website:

● Winner of the 2013 National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction
● One of The New York Times’s Ten Best Books of the Year
● Winner of the The Chicago Tribune 2013 Heartland Prize for Fiction
● An NPR “Great Reads” Book, a Washington Post Notable Book, a Seattle
Times Best Book, an Entertainment Weekly Top Fiction Book, a Newsday Top 10 Book, and a Goodreads Best of the Year pick.

Watch this stop over the next few Fridays for more about this book, its author, and the history of Nigeria, and if you can, join us on November 21, 2015!

Halloween Thanks

Mystery_Men_19123_MediumSo today I was going to review a book but ha ha I have a cold and I’m about to go to the store in my PJs to get tea and stuff so no book review for you today. Instead, here’s some Halloween thanks:

Thank you to the many trick-or-treaters who came to our house – we love being part of a big trick or treat neighborhood!

Thank you to the fact that all the trick-or-treaters vanished at 9PM. We had one group at 9:30, but my porch light was still on and jack-o-lanterns still lit so there was no breach of etiquette there. Once the lights went off we had no late night knockers, either human or supernatural. And all the trick-or -treaters, especially the teens, were glowingly polite. We had awesome teens. You are not too old to trick or treat as long as you are doing it that politely! Come back next year!

Thank you to the parents who had my peanut allergy daughter over this week and who had to put up with the fact that for me from October to January it’s basically one long anxiety attack about food. You will all be pleased to know that dear daughter had a great October with no allergy attacks although she is also sick.

Thanks to my husband who is hiding the candy so I don’t eat it all, and thanks for the fact that he hasn’t hidden it quite yet. Mmmmmm.

Thank you PJs and Cartoons and tea and Kleenex.

Happy belated Halloween and Samhain to you and yours!