Wednesday Videos: Ice Skating Dinosaur is My Everything

WednesdayVideoThis ice skating T Rex is my everything. You can’t give up all hope in humanity when this sort of thing is happening.

There’s a whole YouTube channel of this kind of glorious bliss. I could watch it all day. I’m acting all the video now, for you, my readers. For instance, here’s our friend in love:

Here he is dancing ballet:

 

If he can do it, so can we, I figure. So get out there and do something improbable today! Or stay home and watch T Rex video, whatever, that’s also a valid life choice.

After the Avengers: A New Anthology!

31JHwpfUn9L._SX278_BO1,204,203,200_I’m thrilled to be part of the new anthology After the Avengers: From Joss Whedon’s Hottest, Newest Franchises to the Future of the Whedonverse. It’s available as a eBook from Amazon for $7.99 and includes essays on Whedon’s comics, independent movies, and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.  My essay, “Watching the Whore: The Treatment of Jules in Cabin in the Woods,” explores the way the characters, the audience, and the directors of Whedon’s quirky horror movie are complicit in Jules’ fate. Other essays speculate about future Shakespeare projects, and tackle how Whedon is seen cross-culturally. It’s an ambitious, wide-ranging anthology.

Right now excerpts from three essays are available for free online. “I’m Every Bit The S.H.I.E.L.D Agent You Are: Exploring Opposing  Masculinities”, by Scott Interrante, examines the contrast between Grant Ward and Leo Fitz, as well as male characters in other Whedon properties.

“Though This be Madness, Yet There is Method in It: Speculating on Adaptations of Shakespeare,” by Carl Wilson, wonders what might be next for Whedon after Much Ado About Nothing.

“Whedon’s Women: Melinda May and Maria Hill as Transgressive Superheroines,” by Dr. Leanne McRae discusses how these characters function in the culture constructs of superheroes.

I hope you’ll check this anthology out, and remember that an honest review is the greatest gift you can give an author (besides coffee).

 

Between the Lines Book Club: The Book Club Cookbook

between the lines book club logoHello book clubbers! I hope everyone has found a romance to read this month, as discussed in my last Between the Lines post. Can’t wait to see everyone in person in Sacramento on June 25, 2016, at the newly refurbished Arden Dimick Library!

Recently I read The Book Club Cookbook, by Judy Gelman and Vicki Levy Krupp. I fell in love with this cookbook for the following reasons:

  • It gives descriptions of book clubs all over America, each of which has a different focus and a different chemistry. It was so fun to compare these different groups.
  • It talks about how food fits thematically into various specific books – how the inclusion of food affects the reader’s perception of the story and the characters.
  • It explores how different clubs use food to enhance their experience.
  • All the food sounds delicious.

I’m not much of a cook, personally, but I liked the approach of one group of non-cooks who had some small food item at each meeting that related to the book, and members had to guess how. For instance, the leader brought little honey candies to a discussion of A Secret Life of Bees. Some members were more ambitious, but keeping it simple seems to have been part of the challenge. What do you think, book clubbers? Shall we take our snacks up a notch?

You can find my full-length review of The Book Club Cookbook at Smart Bitches, Trashy Books.

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Heroines of Science: Links!

Berta Caceres 2015 Goldman Environmental Award Recipient

Berta Caceres 

I’ve been spending a lot of time writing about historical amazing science people at Smart Bitches, Trashy Books, and in doing so I’ve almost forgotten to watch for amazing science heroes who are working right now. So this entry is a links entry that I hope will lead you to some stories of women in the sciences (and related fields) who are kicking ass all over the place.

This link comes from Max Fagin, who wrote a post for us about Vera Rubin. Enjoy this article, “30 Most Innovative Women Professors Alive Today.” This includes such luminaries as Sarah Bergbreiter, who works in microrobotics, Lisa Randall, an expert in particle physics, and Susan Lindquist, molecular biologist.

Nature.com has a special “Women in Science” issues that shows many of the triumphs and challenges women face in science today.

Women are on the forefront of environmental movements around the world. On March 3, 2016, Honduran activist Berta Cáceres was assassinated. This is a terrible loss to Honduras and to all of us. Cáceres was a leader in attempting to protect the rainforest from illegal logging and other forms of exploration, From Democracy Now:

According to Global Witness, Honduras has become the deadliest country in the world for environmentalists. Between 2010 and 2014, 101 environmental campaigners were killed in the country.

Wednesday Videos Explain the Hymen

WednesdayVideoHonestly. Y’all need to know this. For one thing, it’s basic anatomy. For another thing, there are real-life consequences of entire societies not knowing what a hymen is. Plus, this video is super funny. It’s frank, but also PG. For more, check out SBSarah’s hilarious rant, “Where is the Hymen?” at Smart Bitches, Trashy Books.

The Last Man, by Mary Shelley

220px-The_Last_Man_1st_editionThe Last Man is just as depressing as it sounds. It’s a book by Mary Shelley that was panned on release but has gained a following in the last couple of decades as an important early example of post-apocalyptic literature. It’s also a fascinating look at Shelley’s emotional life, since the main characters are very loosely based on Mary Shelley, Percy Shelley, Lord Byron, and Claire Godwin.

 

The Last Man is told from the viewpoint of Lionel Verney, the impoverished son of a nobleman. Lionel is loosely, and again I emphasize loosely with regard to all of the characters, based on Mary Shelley. He becomes close friends with Adrian (shades of Percy Shelley) and Lord Raymond (Lord Byron). Lionel’s sister, Perditia (Claire Godwin) falls in love with Lord Raymond, and various love triangles ensue. There’s a revolution in Greece and political turmoil in England, and a lot of personal drama, until a plague hits and suddenly everyone has to focus on survival as one by one everyone dies.

 

The structure of the book is such that we know two things from the very start of the book: humanity is not going to die out, but everyone Lionel knows is going to die and the world as he knows it is going to end. There’s no victory in the book, it’s a just a long, long death march into misery. Any time something happy happens, it’s bittersweet because we know it won’t last. To read this book is to ponder the following quote from its pages: “What is there in our nature that is for ever urging us on towards pain and misery?”

 

There are early hints of trouble, but the apocalypse doesn’t really get under way until over the halfway point of the book. A plague strikes the Middle East, then begins moving into Italy, then into Europe. Anyone who has ever read a plague book or a zombie book will know exactly how this goes – in fact, other than a lack of guns and gore, the book matches up quite well with The Walking Dead. Think how well a quote like this could apply to the heroes of The Walking Dead, or 28 Days Later, or WWZ: “I spread the whole earth out as a map before me. On no one spot of its surface could I put my finger and say, here is safety.”

 

The plague is described as a disease, like flu, but this book was written before germ theory. That means that no one quarantines the sick – instead everyone bands together for safety, and keeps watch over the sick, and hover over dead bodies a lot. No one washes his or her hands. I was overcome with a furious desire to throw bars of soap at everyone. One of the leading ideas about how disease happened at the time when Shelley was writing was that disease spread through ‘miasmas’, basically through bad air. So the steadily dwindling group of survivors travels around in an attempt to escape miasma, wandering into uninfected villages, and insisting that anyone uninfected join the party, which of course means that no one has a chance to escape contamination.

 

I’m not gonna lie – this book was a slog. I’m glad I read it. I was fascinated by how Shelley wrote about her contemporaries and I was interested in the early science fiction angle. But this book is both flowery in the Romantic style and horribly, horribly depressing. No reviewer is truly impartial, and no doubt I was influenced by the fact that I read this book during the two-week period in which David Bowie died, Alan Rickman died, and a dear friend of mine died. But by any standards, this book is an exercise in exploring the totality and inevitability of loss. With every step Shelley’s hero took, my heart sank lower and lower until I just wanted to climb into bed. The endless need to scream “WASH YOUR HANDS” did not help my reading experience.

 

So, do I recommend The Last Man? Well, sort of. The writing style is flowery and extravagant, which is not to everyone’s taste today, and the plot is unremittingly depressing. I can’t honestly say that I enjoyed it. But from a literary history perspective, it’s fascinating, and many of the passages, especially those about grief, are beautifully written. The panic of Lionel’s wife when her children fall ill is devastating. Lionel’s desperate search through empty villages, and his delusions that maybe someone is left to welcome him, are haunting. The early sense that the rich are hiding in their mansions, believing that they are protected by their money, resonates all too well today. Just be prepared that this is not a light-hearted romp through a romanticized Merry Olde England. As a survivor of countless losses, Mary Shelley paints an all too vivid picture of being the sole survivor of a group that thought itself above all suffering.

Between the Lines Book Club: Romance Month

between the lines book club logoWelcome back, Book Clubbers! In Between the Lines Book Club, we meet here and in person at Arden Dimick Library to discuss literary fiction and nonfiction. While Arden Dimick is closed for renovations, I’m challenging my book clubbers to try some different genres, just for fun.

 

Last month we talked about mysteries. I had some suggestions, and book clubbers wrote in  with suggestions of their own. This month, we’re going to talk about romance. That right, I want you to crack open a Romance Novel. I’m even suggesting one with Fabio on the cover. Why? Because, and I know this will be hard to believe, it’s a very good book.

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A book so good I own two copies. You’ll just have to trust me – nothing about the actual book screams “Fabio offers a person flowers.”

 

No genre is more stigmatized than romance, and yet no genre is as varied (or as lucrative – the industry is massive). For a book to be a “Romance Novel” as opposed to a “Novel with romance in it”, it only has to meet two criteria:

  1. The reader must care about the romance more than anything else in the story.
  2. There must be a happy ending which involves the two (or, in more daring romance, especially erotic, more than two) protagonists finding romantic happiness together.

Based on these criteria, Pride and Prejudice is a romance novel, as is Jane Eyre. Those books can be read in many other ways as well, but that’s true of many romance novels – they cross genre lines. In contrast, Wuthering Heights is not a romance novel, because it ends sadly, although it is a novel that contains romance. The comedies of Shakespeare are plays, not novels, but in every other respect they fit the bill (Romeo and Juliet is a tragic romance, not a Romance Novel, because the happy ending is the key component of a romance novel).

Romance novels are often criticsized as being formulaic, but they are no more formulaic than literary fiction (characters will reveal truths about society) or mysteries (there will be a crime and the crime will be solved). Other than the happy ending, everything is open to variations. There are contemporary romance novels, science fiction ones, mysteries, historical, and westerns. Some have sex scenes that are barely implied and others are explicit. Some novels are written with beautiful language and impeccable structure, some barely made it through spellcheck. It’s a varied world out there.

At this link is a post I wrote introducing a variety of romance novels (yes, including the Fabio cover one). You might also check out the other site I write for, Smart Bitches, Trashy Books. You can search the site by grade – when I first started reading romance I went down the list of A grade books until I got s feel for the genre. Try one this month, and let us know what you thought! There are a host of terrible, terrible romance novels out there, but some brilliant ones as well. Enjoy! We’ll be meeting in person at the end of June when the library has been beautiful refurbished.

 

Wednesday Videos: Donald Trump and Game of Thrones Mash-Up

WednesdayVideoWell, this is both hilarious and depressing. College Humor has discovered that Donald Trump fits all too well into Westeros. Look, Trump, if Tyrion is giving you That Look, then you should shut the hell up.

I must say that I am deeply saddened by the lack of a “Dany sics her dragons on him” sequel.