Saturday, December 29, 2012

What Are You Doing New Year's Eve?

Just a little something to get the New Year's weekend going (h/t Evil Blogger Lady) -

I knew Zooey Deschanel could sing, but Joseph Gordon-Leavitt? Wow. (I guess I just don't pay much attention to that area of pop culture)

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Thumpety-Thump-Thump - Review of "The Snowmen"

I didn't get to watch the "Doctor Who" Christmas Special until just a little while ago because I was with The Fam watching "The Dark Knight Rises" - and having to explain some of the finer points to my mother. But do you know how weird it is to go from a Christopher Nolan Batman movie to "Doctor Who?" Two words: Mood Whiplash. Anyway - spoilers for "The Snowmen" beneath the video of a decidedly non-killer-alien-whatever snowman -


(Just a thought - now with three under their belts, the Matt Smith/Steven Moffat era Christmas Specials have all taken cues from beloved classic stories.  Yes, "Frosty the Snowman" is a bit of a stretch - but there was living snow and the Doctor had a top hat. I'm going to say it counts).

I believe this is the first Christmas Special since New Who began that might actually have some real bearing on the rest of the storyline.  I say that, keeping in mind that Donna's return from being a one-off in "Runaway Bride" was not pre-planned - it just sort of happened.  But this has been in the works since before they started working on "Asylum of the Daleks."  That doesn't mean that "The Snowmen" doesn't have a distinct "rompy" feel to it.  Just that some of the romp-ness get played down in favor of introducing a new companion and created new mysteries and mind-bendy stuff that I have actually missed during the first half of Series 7 (yeah, I know - we fans are unpleasable creatures).

First, the obvious - JLC is a wonderful Clara Oswin Oswald (and I am happy to say that I CALLED IT!! Well, I thought that Clara's last name could be either Oswin or Oswald - but we got both!).  I loved her introduction!  Every time a new companion has been introduced in New Who, there has always been an element of wonder and magic and I think Clara's introduction took that up to eleven (no pun intended).  Either the Doctor is playing up the wonder and newness for Clara for kicks or he's actually acknowledging its existence.  Plus, he's making bargains with the Universe - which is an interesting direction for the story to take (not one that I am displeased with, though I'm certain some more cynical fans are going to get all butthurt about it).

Vastra and Jenny were wonderful and (judging from the Coming Soon trailer) will be a great addition to the Every Once In A While companion roster.  Strax... I'm still not completely sold on his status of Was-Dead-But-Is-Now-Alive (the explanation wasn't quite there).  But maybe it has something to do with Clara being dead twice over and All Will Be Explained.  But later (sort of like why the TARDIS exploded in Series 5 - holy cow, that was so long ago).

I'm not even going to begin guessing at what Clara's deal is - why she was Souffle Girl or why she's an erstwhile barmaid and governess in Victorian London.  I don't have enough information to even think of what she is.  She's certainly not all she seems - even before she meets the Doctor.  She's got secrets that she says nobody would believe.  It's like River Song all over again, but this time Clara's secrets probably have very little to do with the Doctor (unless she turns out to be a Time Lady - but how many times has that theory been hashed and rehashed again?)

"The Snowmen" - very enjoyable, very memorable and a great way to get us out of our "The Ponds Are Gone *sob*" funk (though I liked the nods to the Ponds in Vastra's "One Word Test" - that's another question - how would the mere mention of "Pond" bring the Doctor out of his retirement?  Just the Universe sending out little hints and coincidences to get him going again?  Hell, if that's all there is to it - I love it!)

ETA: CRAP! I forgot to talk about the new opening titles! (well, there was other stuff going on, wasn't there?)  They are totally and completely new - but there was a Classic Who feel to them as well.  Sort of like the new TARDIS interior (and exterior - Dear Sweet Scorby, Sexy could use a new coat of paint, couldn't she?)  The colors reminded me of the Pertwee era and there were planets and stars like in the 80s - oh, of course we had the Doctor's face ever so briefly reflected in the cosmos.  Anyway - changes are great, love them and I'm going to go see if there was anything else I missed.

Monday, December 24, 2012

One More Sleep...

Hope you all have a very Merry Christmas! I've got some things in the pipe for 2013, but for now enjoy the Christmas season with family and friends.

I have a bit of a confession to make - I had never heard of the song "O Come Emmanuel" until this year when The Piano Guys made a Christmas video AND Luke of The Minute Doctor Who Podcast used it for his TMDWP Advent Calendar. I sort of feel like a terrible person now because this song is really good and I can't believe I've never heard it before. Anyway - here's both The Piano Guys' video and Luke's final installment of the Advent Calendar (which you should check out all the videos for because it really was a lot of fun).

Happy Christmas to all and to all a Good Night!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Read This Series! (You're Welcome) - Review of "The Riyria Revelations"

Titles: 1- Theft of Swords (Salt Lake County Library Reader's Choice Nominee, July-October 2012)
            2 - Rise of Empire
            3 - Heir of Novron
Author: Michael J. Sullivan
Publisher: Orbit Books
Publication Date: 2011, 2012
Summary (from Goodreads of Theft of Swords) - Royce Melborn, a skilled thief, and his mercenary partner, Hadrian Blackwater, make a profitable living carrying out dangerous assignments for conspiring nobles-until they are hired to pilfer a famed sword. What appears to be just a simple job finds them framed for the murder of the king and trapped in a conspiracy that uncovers a plot far greater than the mere overthrow of a tiny kingdom. Can a self-serving thief and an idealistic swordsman survive long enough to unravel the first part of an ancient mystery that has toppled kings and destroyed empires? And so begins the first tale of treachery and adventure, sword fighting and magic, myth and legend.

My Review:

Twice a year, Salt Lake County Library (where I work) holds their Reader's Choice program.  For four months, readers are presented with a selection of books chosen by the Reader's Choice committee and those of us who have volunteered to review and help whittle down the list.  The books that get chosen are ones that the committee and reviewers feel would appeal to a wider audience.  If you're not typically interested in genre fantasy, they try to choose novels that would be considered fantasy, but have more literary qualities or other aspects from other genres so they'll appeal to more people, to varying degrees of success.  There was one book featured a few cycles ago that was more slutty romance than fantasy and I couldn't finish it.  You don't love all the books on the RC list, but there are some gems that are worth searching out.

The last RC cycle was my favorite so far.  I substituted at the Bingham Creek Library for a few days the last week of June and they asked me to help unpack the new Reader's Choice books.  And there were a quite a few books that I saw that I wanted to read, but the one I knew I just had to read was Theft of Swords by Michael J. Sullivan.  I had never heard of it before, but reading the synopsis and finding out it's just the kind of high epic fantasy that I like, I knew I had to read it and vote on it so the RC committee might be persuaded to include more of that genre in the future.

Now, you all are thinking "But you hadn't read it yet! How could you know you'd love it?"  Honestly - I didn't.  But I wanted to give it a fair shot since I knew a lot of other people wouldn't.  When I tried to (very kindly and gently) suggest it to people, they were kind of put off by how long it was, even after I explained it was two books in one and that it read really quick.  But I will say this - in my job subbing at all the county libraries, I caught glances of many of their vote tallies.  And everyone that submitted a ballot for Theft of Swords gave it a 4 or a 5, that being the highest you could rank it. And that ranking is well-deserved (too bad more people read the shorter rom-com novel about the guy spying on his co-workers' emails and voted on that - even if it was good...)

You all know what I read and watch.  I am a high-epic-fantasy nut to the core.  I'm counting down the days to the final Wheel of Time book (20 days, everyone!) I've read and re-read Lord of the Rings and I'm all geeked-out over The Hobbit.  Harry Potter's in my wheelhouse, so is anything Terry Brooks has ever written - and I love Brandon Sanderson's novels.  I'm an ardent supporter of Shannon Hale and Jessica Day George and tons of other great YA fantasy authors.  I'm also the tiniest bit of a snob, though.  The fantasy I choose to read has to be good.  I have to be interested in it right off the bat or I'll put it aside (you do a lot of reading as a librarian and you have to mix-in your "Fun For Me" reading with your "I Have to Read This For Work" reading).  As with any major genre, you're going to run into good stuff along with complete and utter crap, so you do have to be careful.

Since I started working at the library, I've been more choosy about the books I buy.  In the past, I've bought books that I thought I'd like, but it turns out I hated them and I was mad because I spent money on stuff I didn't like.  But since I can get anything I want for free at the library, only the very best get a place on my shelf.  After I finished Theft of Swords, I read Rise of Empire and Heir of Novron.  And I immediately wanted the whole series for myself.  I got Theft of Swords after Reader's Choice ended because the library puts excess RC books on the book sale, so I was able to get that one for cheap.  Once Christmas is over and I have some gift card money to work with, I am going to purchase the other two because the whole series is certainly worth owning.

Okay, done with story time - Actual Review! (and it goes without saying that Spoilers Abound! Not to mention Excesses of Readerly-Gushing).

Short Answer:  I've made it my unofficial goal to get as many people as possible to read this series because it deserves to be read and loved and passed around to all my high-fantasy-loving friends and neighbors.

Slightly Longer (and More Entertaining) Answer: The Riyria Revelations follows two thieves - Hadrian Blackwater and Royce Melborn.  Hadrian and Royce are about as different as two guys could be, but they are best friends.  Hadrian has a sunny, winning personality (which creates a bit of a mood whiplash when he starts killing people).  Royce is that Little Dark Raincloud and he doesn't have much in the way of people-skills.  They call themselves Riyria (which in this world is Elvish for "two") and they hire themselves out to whoever needs something stolen.  They live for their next job and not much else.

One of the best things about these guys? They are every that your typical Epic Fantasy Heroes are, but they also can be snarky and sarcastic when the occasion calls for it - and even sometimes when it doesn't. These books didn't take me long to read, but I would have spent less time reading them (and probably enjoyed them a lot less, let's be honest) if I wasn't laughing so much.  The characters would be having a serious conversation when either Royce or Hadrian would throw in a zinger at just the right moment.  The humor in this is along the lines of Firefly or The Avengers (now that I think of it, if these ever became movies, Joss Whedon would be a great choice to direct) - there are some dead-serious moments to be sure (the end of Heir of Novron just about tore my heart out - it's the end of the series. No one is guaranteed to survive), but there is plenty of humor and heart to get you through the tough parts.

The rest of the chracters are just wonderful.  I love Myron, the monk of Winds Abbey.  He's the third son of an earl and he was shipped off as a boy to the Abbey because his father already had his heir.  He's spent his entire life dedicated to the Abbey and Maribor, the God of Men.  Consquently, Myron knows little of the world and is completely naive to everything (including women - the scene where he sees a girl for the first time is absolutely precious).  Myron also acts as moral compass of the group and he has very few inhibitions about speaking his mind.  Without spoiling too much, there's a scene at the end of Heir of Novron that had me jumping up and down going "YAY MYRON!" because it Was. Just. So. Awesome! (and Myron probably didn't even realize how awesome he was - but he was).

Who else - oh! The siblings Essendon! Alric and Arista are phenomenal   There was a point where I wasn't quite sure if I was supposed to cheer for them or not. Alric was kind of a spoiled brat at the beginning, but he turned out to be a pretty good king of Melangar.  Arista - I loved Arista throughout the entire series.  She felt like a real person with her own fears and worries and second-guessing of herself, but she still does what she thinks is right - even if it turns out that she gets tossed in a prison by a man she thought of as a second father (damn you, Saldur! I'm glad that bastard got killed off).  By the end, Arista almost becomes the third member of Riyria. Not because Royce or Hadrian say she can (okay, maybe Hadrian has a thing or two to say about it) - she just sort of fits in with the heroes of the story.

Another thing I love about Riyria is that each book stands on its own.  Yes, there are strong plot threads running through the whole series, but each installment has its own episodic stand-alone story.  The only thing I can think of to compare it to would be the Russell T Davies Doctor Who seasons where each episode (or two-parter) has it's own adventure, story and characters, but there's a common theme building up to a Big Damn Finale.

There is just enough world-building in this story that you're aware that it's a fantasy world, but it doesn't become too bogged down in it's own "specialness" (I have no idea what else to call it).  Don't get me wrong - I love a well-thought-out and meticulously crafted fantasy world as much as the next geek.  But sometimes, it's nice to focus on the characters rather than the maps and various other minutiae.  I do feel like there could be more exploration of this world in another series, if Sullivan chose to write more (and I would not complain if he did - oh look, there's a prequel series set to be released next summer).

Shut up and take my money!!
Speaking of covers - the cover art for these is fantastic.  One complaint I've had as a fantasy fan over the years is some of the cover art for fantasy novels doesn't exactly scream "READ ME! I'M AWESOME!"  Yes, yes, I know you're not supposed to judge by outward appearances and stuff, but it would be nice if cover artists would take into consideration that I may be reading these books around my relatives who give me sour looks when they see that (A) I'm reading again and (B) I'm reading something weird. Luckily, I don't have this problem with Riyria because I could stare at that cover art all day (not like that, you sickos!)

This is something that comes under If I Only Had More Hours In The Day, but I love that this series was initially self-published.  This is the kind of success story that gives me hope that one day, that book that I keep writing and re-working and re-tooling (and re-screaming over - is that a word?) could see even some moderate success (I don't presume to think that what I'm working on is half as good as The Riyria Revelations, but stranger things have happened).  I would love to go through some stuff on Smashwords and other self-publish outlets, just to see what's out there.  I'm certain there are some other treasures piled in the self-published ebook bin (granted - there's a lot of crap I'd have to sift through) and it would be cool to be someone who finds this stuff early (I have a few hipster tendencies, you know. Not a lot, but a few).

Bottom Line: This series deserves to be sitting next to people's copies of Lord of the Rings and Wheel of Time and I can give no higher praise than that.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Adventures Make You Late for Dinner - Review of "The Hobbit"

The first time I read "The Hobbit" was back in sixth grade after our class read a script version from our textbook (the book was immensely better).  I loved "The Hobbit" so much that I tried to go straight into "Lord of the Rings."  I was eleven.  I didn't get very far.

(Fear not, those who have great faith in my reading comprehension - I was able to get through LotR by the time I was in high school).

"The Hobbit" and "The Lord of the Rings" are such vastly different books that, even though they were written by the same author and take place in the same world with many of the same characters, it would be foolish to think that movies of both books would be similar. I say this because I don't understand why the elitist critics (those in traditional print media and those who write for big-time pop culture and fantasy websites) are panning "The Hobbit."  It seems like they expected to be wowed by this simply because it's Peter Jackson adapting JRR Tolkien's classic story for the big screen.  And maybe they were just underwhelmed by the fact that there really isn't a whole lot new about the special effects.  Seems like all anyone wants is George Lucas or James Cameron (or even Michael Bay - he does plenty of special effects orgies - and just about as messy) - knock-your-socks-off-special-effects, but not much in the way of story.

Well, I was wowed.  And not by special effects or any of that technical stuff (though the technical stuff was impressive and about par for the course for PJ and company.  Even this technical agnostic - that's the one that doesn't care, right? - noticed some improvement in the CGI).  But the most impressive this is that the cast and crew didn't give into the pressure/temptation to the "Lord of the Rings: The Prequel."  They told the story of "The Hobbit."  And "The Hobbit" is not a story about Frodo Baggins being forced to take Ultimate Evil out of the quiet and peaceful Shire in order to save the quiet and peaceful Shire (and the rest of the world, come to think of it).  "The Hobbit" is a story of Bilbo Baggins being taken out of his comfort zone for no good reason and learning Valuable Lessons about himself along the way.

I have to give Glorious and Mad Props to Martin Freeman in this movie.  I'd seen him play John Watson in BBC's "Sherlock" and thought he was brilliant there.  He does the Fish Out of Water thing so well, but I think his portrayal of Bilbo Baggins takes that Up To Eleven.  It's one thing to be the odd man out and just stumble along, relying on dumb luck when the plot requires it.  But in this story, I felt that Bilbo was more proactive in his reliance on dumb luck.  Yes, that makes no sense whatsoever, but hear me out for a moment -

Some of the best scenes in "The Hobbit" are between Bilbo and Gandalf when Gandalf is trying to persuade Bilbo to go on this journey with the Dwarves.  Bilbo is adamant that Gandalf has the wrong hobbit; Gandalf is adamant that Bilbo is not living up to his potential.  There is a moment during Gandalf's "...and subsequently invented the game of golf!" speech in the midst of all the audience laughter where Bilbo actually looks guilty and a little bit ashamed of himself.  Tell me none of you have felt that when your parents or relatives or some other authority goes on about how an ancestor or a sibling or a parent or a friend is doing/has done OH SO MUCH BETTER than you and why can't you be more like them and you're such a loser for wanting to stay behind in your comfortable chairs and filled pantries and overflowing bookshelves (yeah - this hit a little close to home. I admit it).  Even if no one has said it to you, don't you ever say it to yourself?  I do.  Lots of times. And even when Bilbo takes off out of the Shire with the Going on a Quest With Homeless Dwarves Contract fluttering behind him, he still doesn't really feel like this was such a good idea.

Set that idea aside for a moment (I'll come back to it).  I love that there is so much more stuff in this movie than what was originally in the book.  I admit that I was skeptical of stretching this story out over three movies - what if it just feels like useless padding?  But the "padding" - hell, I loved it!  Radagast the Brown was awesome!  Kind of in the neighborhood of Luna-Lovegood-Awesome - kooky and quirky and just plain fun (and damn, those rabbit can book it!  Next time someone carps about Delta High School's mascot being a rabbit, well, I'll just point out that a bunch of overgrown rabbits kicked a bunch of Wargs' asses in Race For Your Life Across Middle-Earth).  But the most memorable added-in scene came from the council between Gandalf, Elrond, Saruman and Galadriel.  I didn't know this at the time, but evidently the scenes added in actually came from Tolkien's later stories from "The Unfinished Tales," which explain a lot of behind-the-scenes stuff that was going on with the Dwarves' quest that Bilbo didn't know about.  The one line that I loved in this scene was when Gandalf is asked (and it's stupid that I don't remember who asked this) "Why the halfling?"  And Gandalf says "I don't know. But it feels right." (or something along those lines).

This kind of plays into foreordination (which is different than predestination), which is something I believe strongly in.  I believe that everyone has Something To Do in this life.  None of us know what that something is and part of our purpose is to discover for ourselves what that is and either accept it or reject it - the choice is completely up the person (which is why it's not predestination - that implies it's fate and it's fixed and you can't get out of it.  Everyone has the ability to choose).  It could be something big and it could be something small.  I don't think we're meant to discover it all at once and it may take a lifetime to figure it out (and perhaps some people fulfill their missions simply by searching).  Bilbo may have been "foreordained" (if you will) to go on this quest and find the Ring so Frodo could go on his own quest to destroy it.  No one knows or understands why - and maybe they never find out the reason (though I think there could have been more answers at the Grey Havens - which plays into another belief of mine, that in the afterlife we will understand everything that we don't understand now and there will always be more to learn and understand as the eternities go on).  But Bilbo is the best person to do this thing and the Universe (Creator, whatever it is in Middle-Earth) decides it.

Anyway - I didn't mean to get into a big philosophical discussion and I'm sure people have little holes that they're going to poke in my beliefs (they always do), but these are the things that really rung true for me as I sat and watched this movie (which was entirely too short for all the good things I was getting from this, so Take That stupid jerks who complain about the time length).

I loved all the Dwarves.  One thing I missed about Lord of the Rings is that we get a pretty thorough exposition to Elves and Men, but we never see much of the Dwarves - how their civilization works and what their ordinary people look like (even though Gimli had his "Dwarf Women" discussion with Eowyn in "The Two Towers").  But in "The Hobbit," we actually get to see the Dwarven Kingdom under the Lonely Mountain.  And - in it's own way - it is gorgeous.  The Elves have this otherworldly, magical, floaty, sparkly element to them, but the Dwarves are very much grounded in reality.  Kind of like Men, but more so.  I love that all of Thorin's Company each has their own personality.  At first, I was afraid I wouldn't remember which Dwarf was which, but I figured it out quicker than I thought I would (I totally missed the ax permanently embedded in Bifur's head, though).  Of course, Kili was the best eye-candy (dark-haired one of the right) and Thorin wasn't too bad to look at either :) (I wondered how they'd work that in, since LotR had so much For the Ladies and Dwarves don't always lend themselves to good lookin' fellas. Yeah, I said it).

(Holy cow - I went from a poignant discussion of The Purpose of Life to fangirl gushing about how hot some of the Dwarves were. I said this would be madness, didn't I?)

The music in this movie was spectacular.  I loved the Dwarves' song about the Lonely Mountain (the text of which was lifted right from the book and just given a drool-worthy bass melody).  I didn't get to stay for the entire credit sequence, but that song was great too.  I will be purchasing the soundtrack in the near future (either after payday or use any Christmas gift cards I receive).

I have to talk about Riddles in the Dark, which is actually my favorite chapter in the entire book.  I've had this weird fascination with Gollum since sixth grade - sort of in the way the world is fascinated by the wreck and story of the Titanic.  Bilbo meeting Gollum and finding the Ring is THE turning point of "The Hobbit" and  "Lord of the Rings," but it's such a simple thing (if a strange cave-dwelling creature threatening to eat you can ever be simple) that it gets overlooked sometimes in favor of "HOLY CRAP THERE'S A DRAGON ATTACKING US!!"  It goes back to entire lives turning on small moments - that nothing ever happens without consequences, whether those consequences have positive or negative effects.  Of course, this whole scene is played out beautifully by Martin Freeman and Andy Serkis.  I actually think Gollum looks more like Andy Serkis this time around - at least, in the facial structure.  That was one special effect I noticed had improved since LotR.  The Riddles scene is playful, yet dangerous; innocent, but also has an air of peril and I loved the whole thing (and I'm glad it didn't get intercut with the Dwarves in trouble with the Goblins, because that would have sucked).

The ending was fantastic.  It gave the movie a place to stop without feeling like you were just dropped in the middle of nothing.  I loved the emotion after the fight with the Orcs and Wargs - even knowing that the Dwarves and Bilbo survive this, I was scared for them.  Especially Thorin.  I haven't talked about Thorin much, but Richard Armitage really surprised me here (I actually wasn't sure who Richard Armitage was before I saw this, but he was great!)  I love that Thorin isn't so much a self-centered jerk that he comes across as in the books, but he's more of a world-weary warrior who's seen too much and just wants to go home already, but he knows where his duty lies.  And even though Bilbo has had so many doubts about himself - and Thorin has had plenty of doubts about this odd little halfling that's tagging along with them - Bilbo steps up and saves Thorin from the White Orc.  I think that transformation actually starts back when Bilbo decides not to kill Gollum in his escape from the caves.  Bilbo was scared and reactionary - but then he steps back and proactively makes the decision not to kill Gollum, even though there's nothing about Gollum worth saving (so he - and the entire audience, really - thinks).  Bilbo has found some courage in himself and uses that to save Thorin from being killed by his old enemy.  By the end of the movie, Bilbo has proven his worth to his friends and to his audience - but most of all, he's proven his worth to himself.

Of course Bilbo Baggins is the star of this story - he's in the title, for crying out loud!  But he is the star in more than just being the main character - he is the star in showcasing his own failings and foibles and weaknesses, but overcoming them anyway.  And this movie portrays that beautifully.  I love the movie poster image above.  Bilbo is holding his sword (okay, it's more like a dagger, but it's a hobbit-sized sword).  In a similar poster for "Return of the King," Aragorn looked tough and heroic and about to kill anything that got in his way.  Bilbo, by contrast, looks kindly and a little wimpy and not sure why he's holding a sword at all.  But there's also a strength there that you can miss if you don't look beyond "Oh, there's just another little guy who thinks he's tough."  That image is Bilbo - he is kind and sort of shy and there's not much on the surface.  But when push comes to shove, he shoves hard and for all the right reasons.  But he can still go back to the Shire and be comfy old Bilbo again (though very much changed by his adventures).  For anyone who has felt like their efforts and work in life hasn't amounted to much, Bilbo Baggins can be a hero (bear in mind, Bilbo becomes addicted to the One Ring and Gandalf has to force him to give it up).  He's a meek and unassuming hero, but a hero nonetheless.

That's worth going out of your door.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

In the Mood to Poke the Bear...

I'm in a snarky mood today and I felt like doing some bear-poking.  And my brain provided material for something I've wanted to address for a long time.  Today's Topic of Rage - Weddings and the Bridezillas Who Plan Them.

This'll be FUN! (image from
Oh, the dreaded Bridezilla! (TV Tropes link - beware! This is a good one too)  I had a clip from the actual "Bridezilla" show that I was going to link to, but Dear Sweet Gallifrey - even a minute and a half clip was too much to handle.  Spoiled rotten little girls whose entire lives come down to one all-day party?  Give me a freaking break.

(Actually, these would be the same bratty girls who, in high school, had to have the Prom all perfect and gorgeous and if they didn't get it, it was the END OF THE WORLD!!)

Yeah, I don't get it either
Now, this rant is NOT directed at anyone in particular.  In fact, it was not prompted by any kind of discussion, conversation, posting, comment, video clip, sound bite or even Pinterest image (wouldn't be caught dead with one of those).  And (because I know my dad is reading this and he'll take it COMPLETELY the wrong way - see my April Fools' Day joke from this year) it certainly didn't come from any sudden and surprising developments in my life, that's for damn sure.  This came about because my brain has a file of Things to Think About When I'm Trying Not to Think About Anything and it popped up.

During my junior year of college, I went to class one day and saw the girl I usually sat next to had a pile of bridal magazines on her desk and there were a bunch of other girls huddled around her desk. I sat down and the girls started showing me their favorites and I just nodded and said “That’s nice,” as though speaking to a cat who has brought me a dead mouse in order to receive praise. Sensing my disinterest, one of the girls asked me, “Well, what do you want at your wedding?” I told her I’d never thought about it.

The girl that I usually sat next to snorted “Every girl has her wedding planned out by the time she’s five years old!”

That is the mentality I’d like to tackle right now.  Not even tackle - I want to beat the ever-loving snot out of it, staple it to the racetrack at the Indy 500, throw it in a cage of rabid rottweilers, run it through a woodchipper and toss it in front of the Running of the Bulls in Spain.

(Barring that, I'd be okay with siccing the Mythbusters on it.)

Now, I'm not opposed to marriage.  I like it when people get married.  Generally speaking, people get married because they're in love and it's a happy occasion.  The world could use more happy.  I would like to get married myself one day (I'd also like to find a passage to Narnia through the back of my closet).  It's the wedding I have issues with.  Specifically, planning a wedding and all the utter and complete bullshit that goes into it.

To understand some of where I'm coming from on this, I have a few things to share -

1 - I'm LDS (Mormon).  For me, the goal is to be married in a sacred and special ceremony in the temple.  The temple marriage ceremony is presided over by someone worthy to hold God's priesthood (more on temples and temple ordinances can be found here).  The ceremony is performed in a small-to-medium sized room in the temple and you can invite a few of your close family members and friends to witness it (not the whole freaking world).  To me, that is what a wedding should be - the focus is on the commitment between the man and woman getting married and their commitment to God and to their future children.  The ceremony is done in 45 minutes, tops.  Anything after that (reception, pictures, dinner, honeymoon) is purely up to you and takes place away from the temple grounds.

2 - When I was little, my mother often talked about her wedding and how it was a much bigger affair than she really wanted. She didn’t want the Bridezilla wedding - she would have much rather had a nice honeymoon or saved the money for a house payment. However, my grandmother (for the record - my dad’s mother, dead these 13 years, rest her soul) had to give her youngest son this big blowout wedding (funnily enough, my mom’s mother didn’t care very much). Honestly, I don’t think it was for either of my parents so much as it was for my grandmother’s desire to show off for the rest of the town - they lived in a small town where it mattered very much the amount of money and prestige and spirituality you possessed.  It was all about showing off for everyone else, like a lot of communities, but this place was Keeping Up With The Joneses x-A-Million (that town was - and still is - a blight on humanity. It would not bother me in the slightest if tomorrow that place was hit by a meteor and blown to smithereens). So, growing up, I heard about how much money was spent on that wedding and the reception and how frivolous it was and why on earth would any sane individual do that?

If the temple ceremony wasn’t so important to me, I would set aside $300 right now for a chapel in Vegas.  Actually, the temple itself would probably even be cheaper than that (it's free to reserve a date at any temple you choose).  I don’t want a freaking huge reception.  I don’t want to spend time and money picking out colors and food and treats for all these people that I don’t even know to come gawk at me.  Hell, I don’t even want to spend time and money on a wedding dress!  Those bridal dress companies are the biggest racket in all of creation and I just don’t want to deal with them.  You spend a boatload of money on a dress you wear once for pictures (that cost you even more money) and once for the ceremony and then it goes on the languish in the closet for eternity.

Really, the only reason to have any of that bullshit is to get gifts.  Here’s this - I’ll put an announcement in the paper and you can put money in our online registry and we can pick out what we want.  Or send us a card with a check in it.  You can be happy for us from where you stand and we won't be punished with your presence, nor will I have to rent a chocolate fountain or ice sculpture swans (Swans? Really?)  Now that I think of it, I could probably take the money I would save by not having a reception and buy all the toasters and punch bowls and fancy dinnerware that people would have given me.  Plus, I would be saved the embarrassment of meeting all the long-lost relatives that I am perfectly happy with staying long-lost (everyone has Those Crazy Relatives, but there are some relations that I don't want on the same continent as me).

And if parents/in-laws get their panties in a wad over this - here’s this to consider: IT’S NOT YOUR DAMN WEDDING!!  You already had your day in the sun - it’s our turn (meaning me and my fiance.  And if tradition holds, the groom very rarely cares about anything other than the honeymoon, so it’s really the bride’s decision).  You had your day to roll everything up in lace and frosting and show off to the world how broke you’re going to be as you start your married life - now let me have my day of happiness and joy without a bunch of crazy old people breathing down my neck.  There will be no bouquet tossing, garter-throwing, cake-in-the-face-stuffing, drunken best man toast, snotty bridesmaids and the starting fullback from Dad’s high school football team is NOT coming!  I don’t care how hurt he’ll be - I don’t even know the guy!  I may send out a few announcements, but these will be to the few people who are invited to the temple ceremony.  Maybe we’ll have a dinner afterwards at a nice restaurant.  But we don’t need this huge-ass party where I stand in line for three hours and meet people I probably hate and would never care to see again (and where some drunk-ass punk stands out in the church parking lot with a cooler full of Keystone and attracts all the frat-boys. No thank you).

The most important thing about a wedding is the bride and groom and this should be about them.  They are starting a life and a family together and THAT should be the focus. I’ve always hated the notion that a wedding is all about the bride.  She wouldn’t even be having the stupid party if her boyfriend didn’t ask her to marry him (then again, there are some girls that just want to put on a party that’s all about ME! ME! ME! so maybe she actually browbeat the poor guy into dropping $20K on a diamond for her.  Like he hasn’t already spent a mint on dinners and movies and crap for her).

That's about right.
Personally, I would hope that I love the guy enough that I don’t need a big to-do over it.  I’d just want to get married and take a nice trip that’s just about us.  Disneyland would be fun - we could get those bride and groom Mickey ears and complete strangers could goo-goo at us from afar.  I’d be okay with that - I know I’d never see those strangers again and I wouldn’t have to pretend to know them in the first place and I could accept their well-wishes as more heartfelt than those of that stupid friend of my dad’s that I ardently avoid answering the phone when he (the friend) calls.

Bottom Line: Weddings - Hate Them.  Don’t even want to plan my own.  Don’t want anyone else to plan it for me.  Let’s just book the temple, invite a few close family and friends, maybe have a nice dinner for the people who came and then we can fly to Disneyland for a honeymoon. Done and done (hm... maybe I should take back what I said about not wanting to plan my wedding - that was actually pretty easy!)

Saturday, December 8, 2012

"The Summer of the Soul in December" - Review of "The Muppet Christmas Carol"

Charles Dickens (as played by Gonzo the Great): "But the incident at the door had made Scrooge wary.  Before shutting himself in for the night, he searched his rooms"

Rizzo: "All right, that does it!"

Dickens: "Pardon?"

Rizzo: "How do you know what Scrooge is doin'? We're down here and he's up there!"

Dickens: "I keep telling you, storytellers are omniscient - I know everything."

Rizzo: "Hoity-toity, Mr. Godlike-Smarty-Pants!"

Dickens: "To conduct a proper search, Scrooge was forced to light the lamps"

[light in upstairs window comes on]

Rizzo: "How does he do that?"

"A Christmas Carol" is my favorite non-scriptural story at Christmastime.  I've seen many film and stage versions (even produced a stage version when I worked at West Desert High School - thank you very much).  And "The Muppet Christmas Carol" is my favorite movie version of Charles Dickens' classic story.  It's the one Christmas movie that I saw as a kid with my family that everybody loved (Dad is hard to please when it comes to kiddie-family-fare at the movies and he loves this movie).  To this day, we all know "We're Marley and Marley" and "There's only [insert number of days left] sleeps 'til Christmas" and my personal favorite "At least I landed on something soft - and hot!"

Now that I'm older and have more story-consumer-type wisdom, I sought to figure out why this version of "A Christmas Carol" is so well-loved.  I mean, Disney did "Mickey's Christmas Carol," which was good and I still watch from time to time (and was actually my first exposure to the story).  But given my druthers, I go for Kermit and Miss Piggy and Gonzo when I want a quality retelling of this story.  Why is that?

Humor plays a factor in it, so does nostalgia.  But I think the best thing about "The Muppet Christmas Carol" is the narration provided by Gonzo playing Charles Dickens and Rizzo speaking as a member of the audience/readership.  Rizzo asks questions like "How do you know what Scrooge is doing?" and "Shouldn't we be worried about the kids in the audience?"  He provides the scared reactions toward Scrooge and the ghosts - even gives the pair an out when the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come shows up, thus allowing the drama and horror of darkest point of the movie to be unhampered by Muppet-esque humor and hijinks that have peppered the movie thus far.  But then they come back for the light-hearted and happy finale with a light-hearted and happy (and repentant) Scrooge, which makes the ending just as fun and uplifting as it is meant to be.  The Greek-Chorus aspect of Gonzo and Rizzo helps bring the audience into the story and you forget that Scrooge is employing a frog and a bunch of rats in his money lending business.

The music in this movie is phenomenal and very memorable.  I still can sing - from memory - "Scrooge," "We're Marley and Marley," "It Feels Like Christmas" and "A Thankful Heart" (and I'm working on "Bless Us All" - try not tearing up at that one).  It doesn't matter that these songs are sung by frogs and pigs and rats and a blue-furry-Charles-Dickens-who-hangs-out-with-a-rat.  The music only enhances the story, giving an already beloved Christmas message an even more powerful punch.

"The Muppet Christmas Carol" is a gorgeous retelling of a cultural classic and more than deserves a "Classic" moniker of its own.  And, you know what?  I think it's got it.

(And no matter how many beauty pageant consultants or butlers to superheroes he plays, Michael Caine will forever and always be Ebenezer Scrooge).

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

And Another Thing...

(with apologies to Douglas Adams...)

This water grab is sort of like two kids who were given identical toy trucks to play with.  One kid rams his toy truck into the wall and breaks it.  The other kid plays nice and his toy stays intact.  Broken-Truck-Kid whines that Not-Broken-Truck-Kid should give up his not-broken-truck so the first kid can play with it and probably break it so then no one can have toy trucks to play with.

Las Vegas broke all their other water rights.  We in Snake Valley have taken care of ours and we have something productive and successful to show for it.  Why should we have to give up our nice things just so Vegas can ruin it?  We've used our resources responsibly for hundreds of years.  They've shown they can't take care of the water rights they already have.  Why would Snake Valley and the State of Utah trust Vegas and SNWA to take care of our water?

Something to think about.

ETA: (Oh, I guess it was Eoin Colfer who wrote "And Another Thing..." - but it was Douglas Adams' "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" series he was continuing.  Carry on).

Oh My Hell, Vegas - GO AWAY ALREADY!

They're like roaches, I swear.  No video embed, but here's a link to a recent news story about this.

A little bit of background - My family lives on a cattle ranch in Utah's West Desert.  That's the other side of the state from Moab and all those fancy national parks in Eastern and Southern Utah that people from the big city come in with their Birkenstocks and mountain climbing gear and think they're becoming "one with nature."  I don't begrudge them that - everyone needs a hobby.  Plus, it helps people in those little towns that exist because of the red rocks and Lake Powell.  Even tourists need to eat.

Western Utah is vastly different.  We're the sagebrush-and-scrub land that nobody - and I mean NOBODY wants.  Oh, we get the history buffs who want to see the old Pony Express (it goes right through our town) and a few other more adventurous types.  However, our main industry is livestock.  It is a little-known fact that cattle and sheep actually thrive on the various kinds of sagebrush out in the West Desert and aren't bothered by the military running aerial practice fights.  Plus, if you irrigate the land properly, you can grow a pretty respectable crop of hay and corn and other sundry things.  Irrigation is possible because of an underground aquifer that runs under land in Eastern Nevada and Western Utah and keeps our mountain valleys green and lush and yummy for the cows (which we then fatten up and sell so you city folks can have your Grade-A Angus T-Bone steak at Sizzler).  That water and those cows put me and my siblings through college and give my family and our neighbors a decent living.  For me, this isn't some "Oh la la la - I'm communing with nature and I feel so FREE!" weekend in July - this is home.

Enter Las Vegas and the Southern Nevada Water Association (Agency? Assholes?).  Or, as I like to call them, Those Rat Bastards That Keep Voting for King Rat Bastard Harry Reid (he's part of the problem since he owns a crapton of land in Vegas with little-to-no water rights).  Apparently, Vegas used up all their other water sources, so they keep going further out for water sources.  And guess who they've tapped to provide them with their next water supply?

If you said Middle of Nowhere, Utah - you would be correct.

This fight has been going on for years.  It started... oh geez... my sister who is now a freshman in college was in sixth grade (I think) when this really blew up.  It made the news and got the governor (who was then Jon Huntsman) to come out to West Desert and talk with the community.  That was a big deal because the rest of the state typically ignores us (we're like the Shire - insignificant and piddly until The Big People drag us into their issues).  Gov. Huntsman basically told Vegas to go pound sand, but then he got called off to be the Ambassador to China and Gov. Herbert (who I like quite a bit otherwise) still hasn't really decided where he stands, though he is reasonable.  For a while, I thought SNWA had taken their ball and gone home, but the above news report says otherwise (dammit).  And now they're making Lake Powell an issue.  I've never been to Lake Powell and never had a desire to go there (boating, tourists, city peeps out sunbathing - that kind of thing), but who do you think will win that fight?  City people love their boats and they could care less about a town with more cows than people.  Besides, horses smell funny.

What gets me (and I wrote about this on Facebook) is that when it's national forests and parks being threatened, you get all kinds of hippies and environmentalists crawling out of the woodwork to tie themselves to trees and protest that the sainted forests and bunnies and deer are at risk and how dare you evil humans come here with your ATVs and campers and we must respect nature!!  But when it's a piece of scrub desert land that people actually live off of and raise their families there and take care of - well, we're just a bunch of dumb rednecks who need to move to the city and don't you know that meat is bad for you anyway?  Never mind that if Vegas drains the Snake Valley aquifer, it's going to be a dust bowl like the rest of the places that Vegas has taken over.  And where does that leave your precious ecosystems, bucko?

I'll be the first to admit - I have an bred-in dislike of environmentalist policy on principle.  And they have a natural dislike for farming, ranching and hunting, which are all things that I grew up doing, so it's a mutual thing.  But I would think that there would be some common ground in this issue.  I (and my family and friends out west) want the land to continue to be useful so we can continue to make a living doing what we love to do.  Environmentalists (I would think) don't want the water sucked dry so it ruins the desert ecosystem (that flourish when the land is farmed, I'll have you know).  But if they don't want to help, that's fine.  We'll beat up on Vegas anyway.  We've done it for at least six years now and it's going to continue.

Since I have a platform (of sorts), I thought I'd devote an entry to this.  It's just nice to feel like you have a way to get the word out and influence people.  Also - do you know how much fun it is to type GO TO HELL LAS VEGAS!!! in all caps?


(I like that variation too ^_^)

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Holy Mother of Gutenberg!

So, I'm signed up to review for the Beehive Awards Long List.  The Beehive Awards are the children and young adult literature awards for Utah as voted on by kids and teens.  The nominees are chosen by librarians (such as yours truly) and kids get to vote on their favorites of those nominees.  The Beehive Awards are run but the Children's Literature Association of Utah or CLAU (pronounced "claw") and they are fun.  It's sort of like our Newbery and Caldecott awards, except the winners aren't chosen by nasally pretentious old people who dictate what kids these days ought to be reading (there, I said it.  I'm sorry, but sometimes the Newbery and Caldecott winners are just "...what the ever-loving hell were you people smoking???"  With few exceptions such as "The Giver" and "The Graveyard Book," the winners typically just aren't that great.  More often than not, it's the Honor books that are the most memorable. Without doing an internet search, anyone remember who won the years "Charlotte's Web" or "Princess Academy" were given the Newbery Honor? Yeah, that's what I thought).

Back to my original point - Those In Charge sent me a copy of the Long List (which I am not allowed to share - or maybe I am. They were a little fuzzy on that point) and I get to read a variety of children's and young adult fiction and rate each title to help decide the nominees for 2013-14.

Am I excited about this? You betcha!

On top of that, I'm currently reading "The Company of the Dead," which I wasn't entirely sure about when I started reading it, but I'm liking it the further I read.  The premise is that there's this guy who time traveled back to 1912 and got stuck there, so he decided to make the best of a bad situation and change a few key moments in history (which, for those of us versed in time-travel fiction, is generally seen as a big no-no).  The first thing he does is try to prevent the Titanic from sinking, which he does initially... only to have it hit an iceberg a few hours later and it sinks anyway (this happens in the first 100 pages - I'm not spoiling anything).  However, the survivors are different, which begins a chain reaction that creates an alternate history of the 20th century in which Germany and Japan run the world, America is divided between the Union and the Confederacy (the South's Second Secession turned out better than the first one) and, of course, there are airships (you can't have a good alternate-reality story without them, it seems).  I'm about halfway done - it's a door-stopper - but I am enjoying it.

What else am I reading?  Oh yes, I FINALLY found a copy of "Heir of Novron," which is the third installment of the Riyria Revelations (it's actually an omnibus of the last two in the series - long story).  Since Salt Lake County Library had "Theft of Swords" (first in the series) on the most recent Reader's Choice list and since I liked it so well (so did pretty much everyone who read it, according to the high ratings it got from those who bothered to vote - not enough votes to win, though. Dammit), I read the second one, "Rise of Empire."  And since "Rise of Empire" ended on The World's Worst Cliffhanger!!!!!!!1!!!, I've been anxious to get the third.  Problem is that the County's copies have been tied up in holds (like I said, everyone else who read it liked it too), so I finally caved in and got a Salt Lake City Public Library account, which I was fighting ever since I moved here (I don't know why, now that I think of it).  The City Library patrons obviously don't know what kind of a gem the Riyria Revelations is (which is an advantage to me) because their copy was free and clear.  So, I've got that sitting on my nightstand.

In addition, there's a rather Large Pile of Stuff that I just randomly pick up at work because I think it looks good and it's the library so it's free so why the hell not?  Hopefully I'll have things to review and blog about as 2013 gets underway (oh yeah - the final Wheel of Time comes out in January - I'll have that to review as well - and I'm about halfway done with "Reached," which is turning out not to be anything I expected. In a good way, though).  That's not counting new "Doctor Who," either.

Watch this space, my friends.