Tuesday, October 30, 2012

I Didn't Realize Tatooine Was for Sale!

In a move that is only surprising because nobody was really talking about it, Disney purchased LucasFilm and ILM for a substantial chunk of change.  This means that the House of Mouse will now be sharing studio-space with Yoda and Darth Vader and a bunch of Jedi - WHEE!!

Personally, I am excited about this.  If only because I was tired of all the requisite bitching about "Han Shot First" (which, now that I've seen the original footage, I'm calling bullshit on George's shenanigans) and, really, how MANY times are you going to tweak the original trilogy??  It's been out for THIRTY FREAKING YEARS!!  It's like George has this scab that he won't stop picking!  I'm sick of hearing how this next Super-Duper-Extra-Special-Snowflake Release is the DEFINITIVE version of Star Wars.  And honestly - I'd be okay with some new material that isn't cobbled on to something that's been around for years already (which, it sounds like we'll be getting sooner than we expected.  2015 - OMG, YES!!)

Say what you will about Disney, they do take care of their intellectual property (we've agreed to ignore the glut of crapquels that were only done For the Money).  Especially something as iconic and historic as Star Wars - I have no doubt that everyone's favorite Galaxy Far Far Away is in capable hands.  Also - judging how Disney and Marvel have been playing so nicely together, I'm excited to see what this new partnership brings.

(And I would LOVE to see the original Original Trilogy in a DVD/Blu-Ray set.  My first exposure to Star Wars was the 1997 Special Edition in theaters and I've only seen the original Star Wars on VHS - never Empire Strikes Back or Return of the Jedi.  What can I say? I'm a young'un).

PS - I am happy about this WITH ONE CAVEAT - in the event that I make it back to Disneyland, I do NOT want see a Disney Cast Member dressed up as Jar Jar Binks taking pictures with park guests.  Let's just relegate that upon the dungheap of bad ideas, shall we?

PPS - John Scalzi (who I'm still not sure who he is, but he matters to Geekdom at large, so I'll go with it) has an excellent post about Why This Is A Big Deal. I can't argue with his logic and he managed to put it better than I did, so there you go.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Depression (Economic) And Why It Sucks

"I would lay rest the grace in my tongue and speak plainly." - Geoffrey Chaucer "A Knight's Tale"

"Every normal man must be tempted at times to spit upon his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin slitting throats." - H.L. Mencken as quoted by Ace of Spades HQ (check the banner)

I try to keep this blog free of conflict and contention - and bringing up anything remotely political is a good way to shoot that all to hell.  But when things connected with politics bring strife and heartache to your own doorstep, it's hard to keep your mouth shut, no matter how many people tell you to keep it to yourself.

Well, my friends - I am tired of keeping it to myself.   What good are words if I can't use them to point at something and say "Hey, there's something wrong here! What the hell?"  If you're having a good day and wish to continue in that vein, please be on your merry way.  I'll let you know when I have a movie or book review to geek out over. 

Here it goes.

I warned you.

*clears throat*

This economy is shit.  Pure and utter shit.

I don't know this because of anything on the news or what some talking head on TV told me.  I know this because today I spent over $80 on basic grocery needs at Wal-Mart.  Basic grocery needs for one person - AT THE FREAKING WAL-MART - cost over $80.  Things like bread, milk, orange juice, sausage, cereal, yogurt, frozen pizzas, spaghetti noodles, eggs, peanut butter, jam, butter, shampoo, soap, tampons, toothpaste - you want I should go on?  And I'm not buying the expensive brand-name crap - this is the Great Value El-Cheapo Soviet Commissary stuff.  Nothing is under $2.00.  Wait - a container of yogurt was 58 cents (Whoo-hoo - what a sale).  Every time I put something in my cart, I was on the verge of tears.  And I saw moms with their young children grocery shopping and all I could think was that I cannot imagine what it must be like shopping for a family.

It got even better - I spent $50 filling up my gas tank.  Last year, I rarely spent over $30 a fill-up.  I don't go very many places - work, errands and home.  Again - moms carting their kiddles to school and soccer and piano lessons and every where else they go.  I don't know how they do it, but God bless them.

I would not be so tender about this if my job situation were more secure.  Tomorrow is the last day for a while that I will have regular work shifts every day.  I'm a substitute librarian - I only work if someone else takes a day off.  Right now, work has all the shifts posted to the end of the year so managers can plan schedules for Thanksgiving and Christmas.  And where I was getting 30-40 hours a week in the summer - now I'm doing good if I get barely 20 hours a week.  I've applied for so many jobs, but everything is the same - I'm over-qualified for some jobs because of my MLS and I don't have enough experience for other jobs because they found someone else from out-of-state that's been in the game for 20-30 years already.  And why take a chance on some young gun when they can get someone already tested and proven?

I understand all this very well.  Hell, I never spent a moment in a business class (wish I had) and I get it.  I would do the same if I was running a business and needed to hire someone.  I hate that I understand how this all works because it would be a hell of a lot easier to sit here and whine how the system is so unfair and I never get what I want and what I wants is a pony, Daddy, and I wants it RIGHT NOW, DAMMIT!!

(Actually, I'd ask for a pink unicorn. The kind that craps golden ice cream).

I am nearly 28 years old.  I should be well into my career by now, paying off my student loans, living in my own place, with a nice car and insurance and with a healthy nest egg.  I shouldn't be scraping by and living paycheck-to-paycheck, praying for someone to come down with the plague or something just so I can get a measly 4-hour work shift (and I don't want to wish misfortune on anyone - maybe just that someone's kid has an orthodontist appointment).  I shouldn't be worried that I can't make rent or that I'll have to resort to moving back in with my parents because living in the big city didn't work out for me.  I don't want to be that person - that person looks lazy and unmotivated when I am anything but.

They told me I could go to college and be whatever I wanted.  Well, if I had advice for my 17-year-old self right now, it would be to screw college.  Everyone goes to college and everyone has a degree and they aren't worth the paper they're printed on.  Get a job as a secretary and save your money.  Better yet - go to a trade school and become a diesel mechanic.  Or some kind of warehouse worker.  Or a truck driver.  It's hard, back-breaking work, but you'd probably be in shape and out of debt.  Maybe you'd even find a nice boy to marry.  Don't get into these useless art fields.  You can read and write on your days off.  Libraries and English departments are luxuries anyway - work in a field that a functioning economy can't do without.  Maybe if you didn't have that stupid literary bullshit from Creative Writing 101 tainting your brain, you could have actually finished your novel and possibly even self-published it and made a little bit of extra money on the side.  Yeah, you got straight-A's in high school, but life isn't high school and it isn't college.  Life doesn't give a damn how smart you are - it's how well you get the job done.  And you can't show that on the Dean's List.

(Amazing what you learn from life... after the fact).

I could also go into how this recession (aw hell, call a spade a spade - we're in a depression. As far as I'm concerned, you get two years to fix it before it becomes a depression) affected my family very pointedly.  But that is not my story to tell (not without clearing it first and I don't think I'd get clearance anyway).  All I can tell is that I never wanted to be living hand-to-mouth in my late-20s.  These past five years (minus the 18 months I spent on a church mission - but you're poor as a missionary anyway) have been sheer and utter hell.  This is not life, this is not living.  If something doesn't shape up soon - I have no idea what I'm going to do.  I don't want to be dependent on anyone but myself.  My goal has always been to be self-sufficient and that is exactly the opposite of what's been happening.

Perhaps I should feel blessed that I'm not one of those mothers with two or three kids around her grocery cart, wondering how she's going to afford lunches to send to school, never mind clothes and a house payment.  Right now, those women are my heroes - the ones who are making it work in this economy.  Even the ones who are trying their hardest and coming up short.  For what's been heaped upon them these past five years or so - they deserve a medal.

I will say this - when your #1 priority for women is making sure they have free birth control or abortions, your priorities suck balls.  How about making sure women have good jobs where they can afford to pay the rent, buy groceries, maintain a decent car and maybe have a little extra for a rainy-day fund or maybe a bit of a weekend movie splurge or something?  Quit playing this bullshit game with "women's issues" and stop with this "Vote with your lady parts" crap.  You know - I spent four years in Lit Theory wherein we discussed feminist theory and other assorted horse manure and the one thing feminists carped about was against anything remotely resembling the objectification of women or the infantilization of women.  Well, I'm a woman and I'm tired of being treated like I'm too stupid or too shallow to care about anything other than what's going on in my - ahem - "Lady Parts."  Honestly - I don't think my lady parts are going to matter too much if I can't afford to buy food to nourish them.  And the rest of my body as well, come to think of it.

Nothing else is going to matter if basic needs are not met - that's what this boils down to.  Books, movies, TV shows, geekdom in general will not matter if I'm too worried about how I'm going to afford a tank of gas to get to the store or if I'm going to have to default on a student loan and shoot my credit all to hell (without your credit, you basically have nothing in this world).  I don't want to lay down and let Sugar Daddy government take care of me, either - not when there are people more in need of it than I am.  This sounds horrible and I don't mean for it to be, but I can think of little else more awful or humiliating than to have to be dependent on someone else.  I would rather be a help to people who really need it than to have to be a burden.  Doesn't matter if it comes from my parents or my church or a government program - I've worked hard in my life and I want to earn what I get.

But lately - it's felt like I've worked and worked and worked and earned less and less and less.

I don't want to be whiny here.  But this isn't normal - I know it isn't normal.  I almost think this has to be a bad dream or a terrible joke and I'll wake up or get to the punchline, give a nervous laugh and get on with my life.  But it's none of those things and I'm not the only one that's noticed.  I'd like to hope that by writing this up, it can be a comfort - let someone else in a similar situation know that there is another person that knows how much this sucks and they aren't the only one sitting in the driveway crying over a half as many groceries as usual and a depleted bank account on payday and wondering how they're going to make it to the next paycheck.  Even a single person with no one else to support can feel it.  This particular single person is sick of it.

When is it going to get better?

This post is likely going to piss more than a few people off - maybe even some among my friends.  But these are my words and I own them.  I'm tired of censoring myself just because something I have to say might make someone else a teensy-bit uncomfortable.  Lord knows I've been in many uncomfortable conversations and haven't said a word.  I've extended plenty of polite courtesies to people I don't agree with and I'm asking for the same.  Even if I don't get it - well, I'm used to it.  After being told for 27.5 years that you're an idiot because you believe X, Y and Z, your skin tends to thicken up quite a bit.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Back Where It All Started From - Review of "John Carter"

I know this review is coming out of left field, but hang with me here for a second - you'll be glad that you did.

I wasn't going to watch this movie.  Didn't see it in theaters, didn't see a reason to buy it on DVD.  I think I was more geeked-out over "The Hunger Games" when "John Carter" came out, to be honest.  Shoot, I didn't even know what it was supposed to be about (the movie trailer looked cool, but the title was a little bit "Guys, that's what you're calling it?")

Fast forward to September - I'm checking in the newly released books at work and I see that somebody has released the third omnibus of Edgar Rice Burroughs' "John Carter of Mars" series.  Two thoughts came into my mind (1) Wasn't that the guy that wrote "Tarzan?" and (2) Wait - that movie took place on Mars??

(It takes me a while to get there, but I eventually do).

Turns out this series has been around for a hundred years (the first story came out in 1912) and was what inspired the creation of things like Superman and Star Wars (and that's just what was listed on TV Tropes).  Basically, anything you love about superhero stories or science-fiction, this is where all that stuff came from.  Which, sort of floors me that Burroughs is more well-known for Tarzan than John Carter of Mars (and it's key to get the "of Mars" part in there because "John Carter" by itself sounds more like some Hatfield and McCoy-esque historical miniseries than sci-fi).  Me? I'm more impressed with an early-20th century writer taking on the story of a man displaced onto another planet than a man displaced onto another continent (people were doing that last one every day back then).

Long story short - I found out what this movie was really supposed to be about and decided to watch it for myself.  My reaction?

Holy. Crow. This. Is. A. Fantastic. Movie!  I don't know what to sing praises to first - the storyline, the special effects or the characters.

The story starts out with John Carter in 1888 New York running from some shady-looking guy.  Cut to John's nephew, Edgar (as in Rice Burroughs.  Yeah, I know) going to visit his uncle, only to find out that his uncle has suddenly and inexplicably passed away.  Edgar ends up reading his uncle's journal, which tells the story of how Captain John Carter, formerly of the Confederate Army, was in Arizona Territory after the Civil War searching for gold.  He winds up in a cave with strange markings, shoots some freaky-looking alien guy and gets transported to this deserted place where every step he takes launches him about twenty feet in the air.  John is taken prisoner by the Tarks (the green Martians that everyone talks about), learns the language and makes friends - of sorts - with a female Tark named Sola.  Oh, and the Red Men of Mars (or Barsoom, as they call it) are in a heated war that comes to the Tarks.  During the battle, John rescues a woman named Dejah Thoris of Helium (who was shown earlier to be working on a weapon to fight against the Zodanga).  John's enhanced abilities to fight and jump come from the fact that Mars' gravity is less than Earth's, but the people of Barsoom see him as a skilled fighter (which, he is in his own right).  Dejah is revealed to be the princess of Helium and asks him to help her people fight against Zodanga so they don't take over the already-dying planet and also so she doesn't have to marry this Creepy McCreepster that's just bad news all the way around.

John, Dejah and Sola (and Woola - the Thark-dog-lizard-thing that is just utterly adorable) go off to find the sacred river that will let John get back to Earth (the sacred river had a name, but I can't remember it).  When they find it, Dejah figures out how to make her weapon work, but they all get attacked - and John kicks some serious ass (all intercut with scenes of John discovering his wife and daughter dead during the Civil War - it's a really great character moment).  Dejah's father shows up with Creepy Dude that wants to marry her and carts her and John back to Helium.  John ends up back with the Tharks who want to kill him, but he kills their leader and he's now the leader of the Tharks, so he takes them all back to Helium to stop Dejah and Creepy Dude's wedding.  And... the rest? Spoilers!

Trust me, it's much better than I'm making it sound.

Disney studios took a big hit at the box office for "John Carter," culminating in the resignation of Rich Ross, the film chief of the company.  Personally, I blame their marketing department for screwing the pooch on this one.  They had a quality product here and, from everything I can tell, their marketing campaign didn't reflect that at all.  I think if people knew the history of the series - who wrote it, how long it's been around, what it was really about - people would have seen this and there would be sequels.  Which, I want but I'm not going to get.  Stupid studio people, screwing up things that I like.

Bottom Line: "John Carter" is a quality sci-fi/action movie that deserves a second look, even if Disney wants to forget it ever existed (this coming from the folks who disavow "The Black Cauldron," which is an enjoyable movie in its own right).  If you haven't already, go rent... no, better yet, buy this movie.  It is money and time worth spending, especially if you're a fan of modern science fiction/ fantasy (and if you get the chance, check out the novels too).

Saturday, October 6, 2012

A Few Words on the Lower Missionary Age

Wish I could have found a pic of a young lady with this, but I'll take what I can get.
The Saturday Morning Session of General Conference is over and the big bombshell is that the minimum required age has been lowered to 18 for guys and 19 for girls.  The lower age for girls (from the previous minimum age of 21) is the biggest adjustment because, as far as I'm concerned, there isn't a lick of difference between an 18-year-old male and a 19-year-old male.  Heck, I'd venture to say that there isn't a lick of difference between an 18-year-old male and a 30-year-old male (I jest, of course.  Sort of.  Kind of.  Not really. Not at all).

Speaking as a female who served, I'm just going to say that the timing of when you actually decide to go - if you go at all - is a very personal decision.  My 19-year-old-in-three-weeks sister just informed me that she has zero intention of ever serving a mission.  That's fine.  Plenty of girls (and guys, but I'm focusing on the ladies here) don't go.  Six months before I left, I still had zero intention of going on a mission.  Oh, the idea had occurred to me before, but I dismissed it for a variety of reasons.  But, as so often is the case, things happen, life changes and you are allowed to re-make your decision (shocking, I know).

I left on my mission three months before my 23rd birthday - well after the then-required minimum age of 21.  I had a mission companion who was 25 when she left on her mission.  All of the elders (young men missionaries) and many of the sisters (young women missionaries) in my mission were a lot younger than me.  It's a funny thing, but at home, age is such a huge consideration in so many things.  On the mission, it didn't bother me.  Not even when someone brought up that my district leader or zone leaders were three or four years younger than me.  There is a spirit about the people called to leadership positions in the Church - whether locally or in the mission field - that supersedes all other considerations.  That is a downright fact.

There will be much made of this development in the coming days and weeks because, quite honestly, this kind of stuff doesn't happen very often and everyone gets fluttery when something new comes down the pipe.  We Mormons are a lot like chickens in that regard - throw a rock in the coop and we all go nuts (bless our hearts).  But also there are some girls who are graduating high school whose male peers are leaving and they want to go too and they'll take that chance.  Good for them.  Also, good for those who choose not to.  Everyone is in a different stage of life and it's up to you and God to determine what is right for you.

Just as an example (and the statute of limitations on this story has run out, so I don't feel weird about sharing it): When I was nineteen, I was a freshman at Snow College and it hadn't even occurred to me that marriage was an option for someone at my age.  To compare, I had a roommate who was also nineteen and practically thought of nothing else and very nearly drove us all crazy with it.  Her goal was to be engaged by the end of the school year.  Two days before the end of Finals Week in spring semester, she was engaged.  Mission Accomplished [insert balloons and banners and fireworks here].  As far as I know, she's happy with her decision and I wish her and her husband and kids all the best.  But I was not ready for marriage at nineteen (and I don't know if I'm even ready now, though nothing has happened to make me confront the subject of my readiness for marriage, so I just leave it alone).

I have one more thing to say about this then the next session of Conference starts - there was a press conference from the Church Office Building to talk about the changes with the media.  One media chick - some dippy feminist from the Salt Lake Tribune with a really nasally voice - got all huffy and kind of disrespectful because the Brethren hadn't adjusted the duration of service for the sisters (sisters serve for 18 months and the elders serve for two years).  Elder Holland had a great line - always in his gracious-yet-firm way that makes me wish I could give the man a high-five (if it's even appropriate to give an Apostle a high-five, of course) - and that was "One miracle at a time."  Who knows - maybe if this a success, they will give the ladies an extra six months to serve.  Geez, lady - keep your hair on and let's see where this goes.  Personally, I've never felt short-changed because I served a shorter amount of time.  Actually, I've never felt short-changed for any kind of differences in Church responsibilities between men and women.  That could be its own blog post, honestly.  But I had to comment on that because that chick's question and her attitude ticked me off.  And that's the point where you shrug your shoulder and go "Eh, it's the Tribune.  What d'ya do?"

Anyway - missions. Serve if you feel like it's something you want to do.  Serve with all your heart and mind.  If you don't do a mission, serve where you are with all your heart and mind.  Don't feel pressure to do anything that you don't feel is what you need to do, but don't discount your own feelings.  As with every major decision in your life, pray about it and be honest with yourself and with God.  Trust Him - God will never lead you astray.  Missions are hard.  I would be a dirty rotten liar if I said otherwise.  When the statute of limitations runs out on those stories (for posting them online, I mean), I'll have to tell you all about it.  But if you feel that it's something God wants for you, believe that He's guiding your life and trust that He wants you to be happy.  My mission accelerated my own spiritual growth and prepared me to deal with some of the tough stuff I've dealt with since then.  And probably prepared me for tough stuff that I haven't even begun to think of yet (and here is where I do a mental-side-note of "Awww... crap...")  For all it's difficulty and toughness, it is worth it.

Well, I've rambled enough on this topic.  The next Conference session starts in eight minutes and I'm sure one of my sisters has stolen my seat, so I have to go relocate myself.  Enjoy the day, everyone.