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Jul. 6th, 2015

1. Bought a new smartphone, mainly because the old one was on its last legs - it's screen was cracked. I don't know how. And it had issues charging. So, I bought a the i-phone 6, which I'm paying off in monthly installments.

It doesn't have Siri, is it supposed to have "Siri"? Do I care? No, not really. The Android had a Siri component, and it drove me bonkers. So actually prefer no SIRI. And I get to sync a portion of my music from the ipod into it. Not all of it - there's not enough space for all of it.

As an aside, there's a lot of French folks in Brooklyn. Not sure why they are in Brooklyn exactly. I passed a bunch of school children this morning on the way to the T-Mobile store, they were walking in a line holding on to each other and their leader via a blue and yellow ribbon and speaking in French. I know it was French, because it is the only other language besides English that I half-way understand. And yesterday on the way to church, I passed a huge group of people, also all speaking in French. This has happened on multiple Sundays. So, rich French people have invaded Brooklyn. Why Brooklyn and not, I don't know Miami?

2. Scrolling through my flist, and stumbled upon smartbitches.com promoting that gad-awful book Me Before You by Jo Jo Moyes. I hate that book. Talked to a friend about it recently, who was interested in reading it because it admittedly has an intriguing premise. I explained it wasn't the premise that I had issues with, it was the execution or how the writer wrote it. The style. The set-up. The characters. It just felt false on all counts.

I think we all, unfortunately, from time to time, stumble across books or tv shows or music that doesn't work for us on multiple levels. Today standing in the T-Mobile store we were all whinging about the electronica music playing in the background, which was one of the employees playlists - albeit no one in the store's. The woman helping me said she preferred music that actually had lyrics, that she could sing too -- not noise.
One person's melody is another's white noise.
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3. Humans - the new series on AMC, which co-stars William Hurt and Colin Morgan.
It appears to be a British series - since it takes place in London, and outside of William Hurt, everyone in it is British. This bodes well for my enjoyment of the series, lately I've been enjoying the Brits version of sci-fantasy better than the American's, which feels a touch stale.

It's not quite what I expected. We're in the future. Synthetics or personal AI's are pretty much the norm. So much so that any family can get one. They do all the menial tasks we don't want to. You can even get one that can, ahem, provide sexual gratification. Colin Morgan's character has rounded up a group of Synthetics that are not just machines, they actually think and feel. Someone steals them from him, and he's trying to get them back. Meanwhile a frustrated stay-at-home Dad purchases one of them from a warehouse - at a discount. And not too far away, William Hurt, who is suffering the beginning affects of alztheimers - is struggling to maintain his old model synthetic, Ken, who he's become attached to and treats like a son.

It held my attention at any rate. Airs on AMC, of all places, at 9pm on Sundays - Mad Men's old spot.

[Wish I could see Sense8 - but I don't have netflix streaming yet.]

Jul. 4th, 2015

The appeal of the movies of Wes Anderson are admittedly lost on me. I remember my brother lamenting about a bunch of film-makers that Kit and Cindy Carson were mentoring back in the 1990s. They were doing this film called Bottle Rocket, which my brother considered derivative and like a lot of indies out there. But alas, Hollywood loved it. While my brother and his wife's films were considered too experimental to be considered.

Guess who those young film-makers were? Luke Wilson, Wes Anderson, and Owen Wilson. I have to say I agreed with my brother - I find Anderson's films dull. They just don't engage me.

The latest is the Oscar nominated Grand Budapest Hotel. None of these movies had characters that I cared about. And the humor is in the commentary. It's absurdist humor, but you feel as if it is outside the story - so comes as a sort of after-thought.

The only ones that I sort of liked were The Amazing Mr. Fox and Moonrise Kingdom. But I thought they were sort of overrated as well. I guess I know why people go nuts over these films - they are different from most of the films out there.
But it's hard for me to forget my brother lamenting about the two privileged and irritating guys doing Bottle Rocket.

While on the other hand, I thoroughly enjoying watching Independence Day again.
In my last post, in regards to 50 Shades of Grey film, I mentioned that I've seen far more violent sex scenes on HBO. Yep, pretty much. Take "Game of Thrones" for example - the writers only show us a sex scene if somebody is being raped. We rarely see anything else. Mainly because sex in of itself isn't all that interesting to watch. But still.

I've finished watching the most recent season of Game of Thrones, or GOT S5. And...
it has definitely left the books behind in some respects. Have no idea where they're going next. If you didn't read the books, you need no longer worry about fans of the books spoiling you. As shipperx pointed out in a post a while back, we're all Unsullied now. Book purists need not apply. [I think the book purists have stopped watching the television series for that very reason.]

Overall, it wasn't a bad season. There were some good points. Jon Snow, Ayra, Theon, Dany and Cersei's arcs for the most part followed the books fairly closely. Cersei actually is more likable in the television series, and more sympathetic. In the books, I kept wishing they'd just kill her off already. They didn't. Tyrion, Jorah, Stannis, Brienne, Sansa, Davvos, Mance Ryder, Melisandre, Little Finger, Jamie, Sam, and Myrcella's arcs did not follow the books - in some respects this was a good thing. The books meandered in part due to those characters arcs and GRR Martin's desire to add new characters to the plotline, as if he didn't have enough already.

I could have done without some of the added character deaths. Seriously, it's not like Martin doesn't kill off enough characters on his own.

spoilers, in case there"s anyone out there who hasn"t seen it already.Collapse )

[ETA: Go buy my book!]

Movie Adaptations...50 Shades of Grey

Last night, I rented via on demand, the controversial movie adaptation of Fifty Shades of Grey.

Overall? I agree with A.O Scott's review in the New York Times.
Anthony Lane's New Yorker review reminds me of a upper crust Brooklyn Heights society dame reviewing a restaurant in Jamaica, Queens, as if she expected to eat at the Four Seasons. Madame Bovary this isn't, Lane states. Well, duh. Be like going to the Avengers and expecting, well The Watchmen or Dark Knight Returns. Not going to happen.

OTOH...it's no where near as risque as Last Tango in Paris, Five and a Half Weeks, or ahem Story of O. But neither were the books. Actually, it was a pretty tame movie. I've seen more explicit and far crazier not to mention violent sex scenes on HBO.

Snippets from Scott's review that I agreed with appear below the cut.

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This post by Wrong Questions on the Hugos, and the link to a Twitter conversation about why Brad T (the leader of the Sad Puppies) got involved in it - reinforces my view that :

a) I'm glad I'm not voting for the Hugos and not invested in this or the community, because seriously? Life is too short for such idiocy. The voting rules alone give me a colossal headache. Personally, I think we all should just ignore the Hugos and pay more attention to the Locus Awards. Other people are.

b) the world is run by evil marketing folks -- who will literally say or do anything to draw attention to themselves. The internet in this respect has not helped or rather it has, just the wrong people. (Sometimes I wish there was a way to stop marketing on the internet. Make ads and marketing illegal - which ahem, would probably make it expensive and impossible for me to be on. Everything, unfortunately, has a price.)

First EL James, now Brad Torgensen - who by the way is far far worse. That guy is just scum on the back of your shoe. James doesn't attack anyone. (Oh, this may be an example of a white guy getting away with being an asshole, while a white woman gets beaten up on Twitter.)

Wed Reading Meme

So, I decided to join MD's book club. Haven't been in a book club in about six years, so we'll see how this goes. They did my book last month. In August they'll be doing Lindsey Fare's The Gods of Gotham - which is a historical police procedural thriller. Takes place in 1843, features a damaged copper who tends bar, and alas a serial killer. (Sigh, really not a fan of the serial killer trope, but we shall see. The reason I'm not a fan of the serial killer trope is that it has been done to death by now. Almost every mystery novelist has done it. It's really hard to find mystery novels that do not feature a serial killer - on television, film, or in books. I find deathly dull. There's nothing new that you can say about it. Also, there's more serial killers in fiction than actuality. I think mysteries feature them - because they want to provide a "monster" - an "irredeemable" bad guy for the hero to relentlessly pursue and kill. And, that just doesn't seem interesting to me. Life isn't that black and white - it's more various shades of purple.)

Anyhow, I bought it. And I have until August 14th to read it. Here's the blurb on it:

Timothy Wilde, the damaged hero of this juicy novel, reluctantly joins the force after losing his employment, his savings and half his face in the great fire that engulfed part of the city that summer. Making the rounds of the wretched Sixth Ward, with its lawless street gangs, abandoned children and ramshackle slums teeming with impoverished immigrants, proves a harsh education for Timothy. But he encounters new depths of depravity when 10-year-old Bird Daly alerts him to the activities of a serial killer in a black hood who is kidnapping and butchering child prostitutes — “kinchin-mabs,” as they’re known in the street slang called “flash-patter.”

I'm also flirting with East of the Sun by Julia Gregson - which I picked up for free from DS.

The Amazon blurb:

As the Kaisar-I-Hind weighs anchor for Bombay in the autumn of 1928, its passengers ponder their fate in a distant land. They are part of the “Fishing Fleet”—the name given to the legions of English women who sail to India each year in search of husbands, heedless of the life that awaits them. The inexperienced chaperone Viva Holloway has been entrusted to watch over three unsettling charges. There’s Rose, as beautiful as she is naïve, who plans to marry a cavalry officer she has met a mere handful of times. Her bridesmaid, Victoria, is hell-bent on losing her virginity en route before finding a husband of her own. And shadowing them all is the malevolent presence of a disturbed schoolboy named Guy Glover.

From the parties of the wealthy Bombay socialites to the poverty of Tamarind Street, from the sooty streets of London to the genteel conversation of the Bombay Yacht Club, East of the Sun takes us back to a world we hardly understand but yearn to know. This is a book that has it all: glorious detail, fascinating characters, and masterful storytelling.


Or Jaguar: On Man's Struggle to Establish the First Jaguar Preserve by Alan Rabinowitz

Here's the blurb:

n 1983, zoologist Alan Rabinowitz ventured into the rain forest of Belize, determined to study the little-known jaguar in its natural habitat and to establish the world's first jaguar preserve. Within two years, he had succeeded. In "Jaguar" he provides the only first-hand account of a scientist's experience with jaguars in the wild. Originally published in 1986, this edition includes a new preface and epilogue by the author that bring the story up to date with recent events in the region and around the world.

Yes, I've apparently burned out on the cheap romance novels. I know, FINALLY.

Wish more people would read and rate my own little book. It's hard not to worry over it.
I'm currently trying to write my way out of a writer's block (creative block). So I'm rewriting a sci-fi novel that I wrote and heavily outlined over 16 years ago. Not sure it will go anywhere, but who knows, stranger things have happened. At the very least it might spur me to write something else. Ideas come from odd places.

Good news though is the book club. Lots of ladies my age and above. Men, for some reason, don't do book clubs. It's odd. I'd like to join a book club with men in it. I know a lot of men read - I have a flist full of them, not to mention my own family members. I admittedly come from an odd family - at least five of them, outside of myself, have self-published or traditionally published novels. And they all read like crazy.

Jun. 30th, 2015

1. Watched a bit of Kevin Smith/Brad Meltzer Interview on Youtube, which only served to reinforce my belief that the Buffy comics are basically fanfic or crack fanfic, with little connection to the actual series. Apparently when Whedon decided to write the Buffy comics, he sent a bunch of emails to various comic book writers that he admired. They were asked which character they wanted to write for or what spoke to them. Meltzer responded with a plot-outline regarding how he perceived the Buffy verse, and it's mythology and themes, because he's really not much of a character guy, he's a plot guy. Whedon read it, and responded as follows: Cool. I write the beginning and end, you write the middle and we plot it together. Oh and we're going to do an explicit sex scene towards the end, something no one has ever done before, and you are going to write it. [As an aside apparently the explicit sex scene was originally quite graphic, and Meltzer realized it had be toned down or it would cause problems, because hello, porn. But he kept it on his hard-drive so he could wack off to it. Yes, he actually says that.]

Alrighty then. This explains a lot. The creator of the series had lost interest in character driven stories, and was more interested in complicated plot, mythology, and
ahem, porn (because it hasn't been done before? Actually, it has -- he just doesn't read Heavy Metal and Magna comic books. This reminds me of the media's reaction to 50 Shades of Grey --- oh this has never been done before. Yes, it has. Just because you aren't aware of something, doesn't mean it doesn't exist. Do your research.).

Sadly, Whedon's strength was never in his plotting or world-building or for that matter the sex scenes. His strength was in his characters and their emotional plot arcs. He was good at writing character driven stories. When he steps away from that - he sucks. I'm sorry, he does. Take Avenges #2 - which is a mess. While Avengers #1 was more character driven. Or Restless, The Body, Innocence, Hush, Who Are You and the last five minutes of Beneath You vs. Chosen, Lessons, the entire plot of S7.

2. Game of Thrones is definitely more violent than the books upon which it is based, which I didn't think was possible. But tighter. They don't wander around as much. Also, I guess they don't really need Lady Stoneheart when they have a million zombies and wight walkers.

Loving the scenes with Tyrion and Danys. Although I'm feeling sorry for Jorah, who I rather liked.

3. In other pop culture news, EL James gets eviscerated by Twitter followers - so much for the whole idea of talking to one's fans. Seriously Twitter can be nasty, people don't have to use their full names and can insult with sound bites.

Apparently, James' insane marketing skills hit a brick wall?

Is it wrong to feel an odd sort of Schaendfreudism reading about this? Possibly. But oh well, some of those tweet made me laugh, and yes, I can't say I disagree with them. Although bashing James and 50 Shades is bit like bashing jello against a wall.

Jun. 28th, 2015

1) For some reason or other, television is just not holding my interest at the moment.
Tried to watch the film The Grand Budapest Hotel from HBO, but alas, my attention kept wandering. It may just be that film. Except, I had a similar experience with an episode of Game of Thrones last night. I did however, manage to watch the new USA (the network not the country) series Mr. Robot which is being filmed in my borough and specifically my neighborhood - I know I ran into the film crew on the way to the grocery store. Also recognized the subway station and various locals. It's actually quite good - surprisingly so. The lead character is believable and oddly likable. And it's well directed and written -- odd for USA series. Felt like I was watching something on AMC or F/X.

2) Been busy helping my parents plan their 50th Wedding Anniversary in Brooklyn, in August. personalCollapse )

3) Speaking of marriage...I had a wonderful experience in church this morning. I was sitting next to a woman who was breast feeding her child. Not too long ago that would have been considered illegal to do in public and she would have been told to stop. Now, it is illegal to forbid it. Then the lay minister got up and announced the Supreme Court Ruling that had declared same sex marriage legal in all fifty states, automatically overriding all the laws and State constitutional clauses that dictated otherwise, including any previous federal laws. In fact it made every law that denounced gay marriage null and void. Next, the lay minister read word for word the following paragraph from the majority opinion:

These considerations lead to the conclusion that the right to marry is a fundamental right inherent in the liberty of the person, and under the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment couples of the same-sex may not be deprived of that right and that liberty.

And:

No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.

This, said our lay minister, is about human dignity, the dignity of every individual, which is in keeping with our Unitarian Universalist beliefs and faith. That above all, the individual dignity of human beings and living things should be upheld.

The entire congregation applauded. No one walked out.

In direct contrast? My mother called and told me about her horrible experience at church today. She's Catholic and attends a Catholic Church in South Carolina. The Priest decided to rant about the recent Supreme Court ruling. About how our society and world was falling rapidly into dark times, and this was one more instance of the horrible and sinful nature of our world. She almost got up and walked out. A good many people did get up and walked out. What disturbed her, however, was how many applauded. My mother was furious. She said that "it made no sense to her how the religious leadership of her church could contradict God? How was preaching hate and intolerance - remotely Christian?
God created homosexuals, God created people to love one another regardless of gender. Who were we to question God?" [Considering the current Pope is preaching kindness and compassion - it seems to me that the US Bishops and Catholic league are going against their own leader.]

As a straight person, I was deeply saddened by this.

In college, I watched a roommate, and five close friends hide who they were out of fear. It was the 1980s. At that time, I had friends who thought you could get AIDS sitting with a gay friend in a hot tub. (Yes, you can't make this stuff up.) One female college friend was in love with a woman - but was terrified to acknowledge it. I remember her asking me if there was something inherently wrong with her. She was a born again Christian, her faith told her that she was damaged and sinful. So she jumped in and out of bed with various men to prove to herself that she wasn't gay. She talked about how sexy men were and went on about sex with them - to try and prove that she was heterosexual. (I lost track of the many lesbian friends who did this. Trying desperately to be something they weren't to do what exactly? Appease an intolerant and cruel societal dictate?) And this wasn't quite as bad as the 1960s, 50s and well most of the early 20th Century - were homosexuals were considered insane and institutionalized. Alan Turning was forced to take hormone treatments and imprisoned for having sex with men, this later led to his suicide. Bars and restaurants were forbidden to serve Gays. If they did, they would be closed down for impropriety and breaking the moral code.

Later at work -- I had a disturbing discussion with a co-worker and friend, who was Catholic. She said that while she had no problems with gays, the idea of them being permitted to be married was offensive to her. And it should be prohibited. I remember asking how this had anything to do with her? How did it effect her? Was she being forced or coerced in any way to watch? No, she said. It's just that it exists that it would be offensive. I retorted - well, that's offensive to me! These are my friends, you are hurting them by restricting their individual rights and for what reason? Because it happens to offend your religious sensibilities? How would you feel if I had the power to retrict your freedom to practice your religious faith because it offended me??

We stopped the conversation right there. Mainly because it was the work place, and well, she was above me in the hierarchy, and I just got that job, after 23 months of unemployment.

Four years later, I had another discussion - this time online, regarding religious freedom and same-sex marriage. This round, I chose my words more carefully. And explained how same-sex marriage did not infringe on religious freedom. There was nothing in the law or legality of gay marriage that would force a church to marry two people of the same-sex. After all the Catholic church refuses to marry people who are divorced all the time. And to make same-sex marriage illegal was in effect putting religious freedom above other individual rights, and only specific religions. That was a slippery slope you did not want to slide down. I used Loving vs. the State of Virgina as an example - citing the miscegation laws of the 1950s and 60s, where in 17 states it was illegal to marry someone of another race or color. Religious institutions supported the illegality, just as they did the illegality of two separate faiths marrying. This was a clear infraction of individual rights - providing religious institutions with far too much power and control over the rights of individuals. Keep in mind, I added, that United States is founded on religious and individual freedom.

I managed to change her mind - she thanked me for taking the time to compassionately listen to her concerns and provide well-thought out arguments in response. Unfortunately we did it on a Meetup email thread and the others on the thread were annoyed. So we got booted off the thread.

As a straight person...I agree with what Connie Schultz on Face Book stated:

As a straight ally, this has been our shame to bear, this government endorsement of second-class citizenship to people we know, people we love. How many times have I tried to assure my friends and loved ones that most of us don't feel this way about them? How many times have I fallen silent to their rebuttals, their ability to point to what sometimes seemed to be overwhelming evidence to the contrary?

All of that is now history.

I don't want to harness my joy to make the bigots feel more comfortable. I will not temper my celebration to make those who oppose same-gender marriage feel better about their self-righteousness. I am not celebrating their misery. They didn't lose anything.

I am rejoicing for my gay brothers and sisters. I am welcoming them home.


Amen.
This excerpt from President Obama's eulogy for Rev. Pickney, I found moving and I thought hit the nail on the head regarding racism, not just in the US but world wide:

None of us can or should expect a transformation in race relations overnight. Every time something like this happens, somebody says, “We have to have a conversation about race.” We talk a lot about race.


There’s no shortcut. We don’t need more talk.

None of us should believe that a handful of gun safety measures will prevent every tragedy.

It will not. People of good will will continue to debate the merits of various policies as our democracy requires — the big, raucous place, America is. And there are good people on both sides of these debates.

Whatever solutions we find will necessarily be incomplete. But it would be a betrayal of everything Reverend Pinckney stood for, I believe, if we allow ourselves to slip into a comfortable silence again.

Once the eulogies have been delivered, once the TV cameras move on, to go back to business as usual. That’s what we so often do to avoid uncomfortable truths about the prejudice that still infects our society.

To settle for symbolic gestures without following up with the hard work of more lasting change, that’s how we lose our way again. It would be a refutation of the forgiveness expressed by those families if we merely slipped into old habits whereby those who disagree with us are not merely wrong, but bad; where we shout instead of listen; where we barricade ourselves behind preconceived notions or well-practiced cynicism.

Reverend Pinckney once said, “Across the south, we have a deep appreciation of history. We haven’t always had a deep appreciation of each other’s history.”


What is true in the south is true for America.
[Also, I think the world at large, too often we forget the violent lessons of our history, no matter how often television, movies, plays, and books attempt to remind us of them.] Clem understood that justice grows out of recognition of ourselves in each other; that my liberty depends on you being free, too.


That — that history can’t be a sword to justify injustice or a shield against progress. It must be a manual for how to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past, how to break the cycle, a roadway toward a better world. He knew that the path of grace involves an open mind. But more importantly, an open heart.


That’s what I felt this week — an open heart. That more than any particular policy or analysis is what’s called upon right now, I think. It’s what a friend of mine, the writer Marilyn Robinson, calls “that reservoir of goodness beyond and of another kind, that we are able to do each other in the ordinary cause of things.”

That reservoir of goodness. If we can find that grace, anything is possible.

Tags:

About Bloody Time...

Supreme Court Rules Same Sex Marriage Legal Under the US Constitution in All 50 States

About bloody time.

And YAY, The Times are a Changing! I remember a time in which my friends had to hide who they were, and pretended to be heterosexual, except in special clubs. The 1980s, were not easy folks.

We've come a long way since then.

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