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Archive for December, 2012|Monthly archive page

The Top 5 Things I Learned from Pop Culture in 2012

In books, music videos, Television on December 29, 2012 at 5:30 pm

Sarah T.

1. Acclimate yourself to rejection as soon as possible.

That way, the fear of getting turned down never prevents you from doing anything. Accomplishing this is easy. Just start asking for what you want, and people will start telling you no. It works for everything: job applications, dating, carbon tax proposals, writing pitches, conferences, ordering very popular dishes at too-busy restaurants. The great trick of rejection is that it’s not so bad. The way your skin grows calluses to protect the parts of you that work the hardest, the word no helps you build vast reserves of Leslie Knope-ism–the bright eyed, bulldozer-ish determination to follow through on every good idea.

Sometimes you’ll decide you need to find a different way to reach the same goal. Sleazeball councilmember trying to sandbag your dog park? Fill his backyard with puppies. Behind in the polls? Don’t go negative; beat your opponent by contrasting his words with your own. Sometimes you still won’t get what you want, which by the alchemy of enduring rebuff just becomes more fuel for your fire. And sometimes your efforts will pay off, in which case the only thing to do is to take in the win the way Leslie Knope would. “I just said let’s get to work,” she tells her co-workers moments after a victory. “How else do people enjoy things?”

2. There will always be someone shinier than you.

Someone more famous and successful. More blonde. More likely to be invited to sing at President Obama’s inaugural ball. Say your brand of talent doesn’t have quite that same sparkly blockbuster razmatazz. The best thing in the world to do, should you find yourself in a position similar to Solange Knowles, is to not even try to be like Beyonce. Instead, she’s quietly and impossibly cool, edgy and offbeat in her bright orange zoot suits, crooning in a crowded shuttle bus her sister would probably never ride. From Solange’s gorgeous cloud of natural hair to the easy way she dives into the pool fully clothed, “Losing You” showed the world how comfortable she was in her own skin. Of course her music made a splash this year: When you act like yourself, the right people find you. And those who don’t miss out on one sweet dance party.

Read the rest of this entry »

GLG Weekly Round-Up

In Uncategorized on December 28, 2012 at 3:38 pm

At least 27 students and teachers were gunned down two weeks ago in Newtown, CT. It is time–perhaps past time–to talk about gun control. It is time to understand that this incident was not an isolated one. Much has already been written so here are just a few links in honor of those who died in Newtown, in the drone strikes in Pakistan, and as the result of gun violence.

Jezebel says “Fuck you” to guns:

“It’s delusional to think that guns can help stop massacres like the one that happened today. Of course, people do think that; yesterday, the Michigan State Senate passed a law allowing concealed weapons in schools and daycares. No no no no no. Let’s stop pretending the “if everyone had a gun, everyone could protect themselves!” argument is worth considering.”

Looking back on the Aurora Dark Knight Shooting, via Gawker:

“You cannot “politicize” a tragedy because the tragedy is already political. When you talk about the tragedy you’re already talking about politics.”

Vijay Prasad on the deaths of children that don’t make the news:

“When a singular mass killing occurs in mainly affluent suburbs, it shocks the nation — and rightly so. But it might be a shock to some to know that this year alone 117 children died from handgun violence in Chicago. These deaths do not get discussed, let alone memorialized in the national conversation of tragedy.”

And let us not forget Kassandra Michelle Perkins who tragically lost her life to gun violence just a couple weeks ago.

Sady Doyle writes about the pitfalls of conflating mental illness and violence.

Slate is trying to track every gun-related death per day in America.

A petition to the White House to start talking about gun control now.

GLG Year-End Picks: Brian’s Games of 2012

In games, gender, Uncategorized, violence on December 28, 2012 at 7:17 am

brian psi

2012 was the year that the sexual harassment endemic to many online gaming communities finally started to receive mainstream media attention. While there had long been sites dedicated to documenting it (see also Fat, Ugly, or Slutty and Not In the Kitchen Anymore) it was the backlash to Anita Sarkeesian’s Kickstarter for her “Tropes Vs. Women in Video Games” doc that really set off the community’s vile and vocal undermind. Sarkeesian documented the responses she received including rape and death threats, the vandalizing of her Wikipedia page, and one guy even coded a game, the object of which was to beat up a virtual version of Sarkeesian until she was left bruised and bloody. This, people, is why the world is awful. Thankfully, Sarkeesian also received considerable support, her kickstarter hit its goal many times, over, and she recently appeared on TEDx to give the full rundown.

Relatedly, #1reasonwhy trended on Twitter after a designer asked his followers why there were ‘so few lady game designers.’ A number of industry women replied to share their stories, some of which are depressing, others hopeful, but every one eye -opening.

The Year in Games Writing

On GLG this year, Allison Bray wrote about bodies and corpses in DayZ, and I wrote about the promising/troubling phenomenon of crossplaying gender.

Elsewhere, Tom Bissell’s ostensible review of Spec Ops: The Line is actually, Benjamin-like, some theses on the philosophy of the first person shooter. Bissell asks why we enjoy video game violence, a theme newly re-relevant post-Newtown. I’ve read this piece at least ten times, and now I’m reading it again. You should, too.

Patricia Hernandez talks Gears of War and the internalization of rape culture in competitive multiplayer. And it is devastating, the saddest thing I’ve read all year.

Games Played

FTL: Faster Than Light

A kickstarter-funded independent, FTL looks and plays like a fancy German board game. You are the captain of a starship pursued by evil rebel scum. Your fragile ship will be torpedoed, boarded by killer robots, pelted by asteroids, is subjected to internal fires and will occasionally experience explosive decompression. Your few crew members must make repairs, pilot the ship, and basically keep it all together while you order them to trade for parts, explore strange nebulae, and upgrade your ship with meaner lasers and death-dealing drones. Random star maps and events means your intrepid crew will die in different, horrifying ways every time. Fun for fans of Star Trek, strategy games, and those with malevolent God complexes, FTL is less than ten bucks on Steam. Read the rest of this entry »

GLG Year-End Picks: Amy B’s Best Music of 2012

In music videos on December 27, 2012 at 7:25 am

Guest Contributor Amy B.

Typically, at the end of every year I narrow down my favorite albums to the top 20 or so. And then, inevitably, I have to create all sorts of side categories to make sure albums and EPs and random songs and rad YouTube videos don’t get missed. This year I’m cutting to the chase by skipping the arduous process of trying to sort out my top 20 and going straight to the more interesting categories of random things I’ve made up. Hope the tunes of these awesome bands bring some joy to your ears as you wrap up 2012 and head into 2012!

Ed: Each of the links below will hook you up with an 8-track playlist home-brewed by the one and only Amy! Happy listening.

Top 5 albums likely to be on everybody else’s lists because they are super!

alt-J – An Awesome Wave

This is my absolute favorite album of 2012, hands down. Earlier this year, public radio station KCRW put “Breezeblocks” into its rotation and I’ve been attached at the hip to this entire album every since. (I can’t believe I just anthropomorphized a record. Okay, yes I can.) Their style isn’t easy to describe—maybe guitar rock with folk, synth pop, and psychedelia all mixed in—and  their lyrics are full of completely obscure film and literary references, but their songs manage to be catchy and mainstream radio-ready anyway. I thought any excitement I get when I play this album would have worn off by now, but months and months later that’s not the case.

Frank Ocean – Channel Orange

Ocean hit the scene in a big way. He made his TV debut on Jimmy Fallon’s show with a riveting performance of “BadReligion,” a song about falling in love with another man (not exactly common ground in the hip-hop scene); and hours later released this flawless album. Prior to this, he had published on his own website personal stories of past love and rejection and questioning sexuality. He continues these themes on Channel Orange, where he is confessional and introspective about love, money, sex, and drugs while managing to go beyond the “same ole, same ole.” His lyrics are inventive and intelligent and unlike what have come before them. All the hype and praise for Ocean is beyond deserved.

Fiona Apple – The Idler Wheel…

Guys, can you believe we waited seven years for this album? It was a long time, but Apple certainly didn’t disappoint and managed to live up to all the hype. She brought her signature raw emotion and honesty, and coupled it with her clever and atypical songwriting and piano-playing. Apple still carries with her some rage and heart-break, but I think this one has some love in it, too. The closing song seems utterly triumphant as she compares herself to a pat of butter and her lover as a hot, hot, hot knife. (I added the extra hots, but I think Apple was thinking it.) Welcome back, Fiona!

Dirty Projectors – Swing Lo Magellan

Dirty Projectors caught a lot of people’s attentions when they released an album covering an entire Black Flag album from memory. I was totally on board, but I could see how many found it campy and maybe even overwrought. Each subsequent album has managed to be experimental while also inching toward mainstream acceptability, and I think Swing Lo Magellan is the most accessible yet. Everything is a bit more stripped down, a bit warmer, and (dare I say it) a bit poppier. If you admired this band before, but could never really get into their music, give their latest a spin.

Cat Power – Sun

Chan Marshall’s past albums have all carried a bit of sadness with them. These were songs for rainy days, hours spent alone, and moments of grief. In fact, You Are Free has reliably gotten me through numerous break-ups for nearly a decade. While Marshall was helping me cope, she herself was facing a rough road of substance abuse and bankruptcy and bad relationships. Sun is the light at the end of a dark, dark tunnel with its strong anthems full of confidence and passion. Marshall is ready to conquer the world (Saudi Arabia, Dhaka, Calcutta…), and we’re all invited to come along for the ride. Read the rest of this entry »

GLG Year-End Picks: Sarah T’s Top 4 Songs of 2012

In music videos on December 26, 2012 at 11:05 am

Sarah T

1. “Wut,” Le1f

“I get guys the way straight rappers get girls,” New York rapper Le1f told Fader this summer, and watching his music video “Wut” you can see the truth he’s telling. The man’s got moves, a voice deep as a well, rapid-fire flow that careens and cajoles, and lyrics so breezy they take you sailing. “Came through in the clutch, stomping like I’m up in Loubitons / Boys they wanna paint me like I’m canvas to do sumi on,” he boasts, doing a kind of moonwalk shuffle in short shorts and a baseball cap. With bright horns and Le1f’s megawatt charisma, “Wut” feels effortlessly infectious. But that’s the mark of a master: they never let you see how hard they’re working.

2. “Anything Could Happen,” Ellie Goulding

The synthesizers powering “Anything Could Happen” make it a song you can lose yourself to on the dance floor, but it’s Ellie Goulding’s fearless lyrics that set this electro-dance-pop gem apart. “Baby, I’ll give you everything you need,” Goulding croons, and you think you’re listening to just another love song that promises vague and everlasting devotion. But in the next breath comes the twist, shouted suddenly as if she’s just realized it herself: “But I don’t think I need you.”

That isn’t a kiss-off. Goulding is singing about coming into a self-reliance that’s both scary and freeing. The world is a wide-open place; people lose each other in it all the time. Listening to her chant “Anything could happen,” you can feel the words burrowing into your skin, equal parts promise and warning and vow.

3. “Some Nights,” fun.

Some nights I don’t know why fun. decided to set their smash hit song in a Civil War video, but  who cares? Wildly distracting Autotune prominence: Also who cares? Most nights I don’t know what I stand for, and I’m just grateful that this year fun. gave me a song to belt my confusion along to.

4. “Montauk,” Rufus Wainwright

Rufus Wainwright wrote “Montauk” for his baby girl Viva, who was born in 2011. Backed by a chiming piano and a carnival organ, he paints the future of their family with the tenderness of a father who’s already preparing himself for the moment he’ll have to say goodbye. When grown-up Viva comes to visit her parents in Montauk, she’ll find one dad pruning roses, one dad wearing a kimono; one dad at the piano, one dad wearing glasses. It’s a portrait of quiet domesticity, yet Wainwright’s already feeling vulnerable about how his daughter will see them: “Hope you won’t turn around and go,” he sings. The memory of Wainwright’s mother, who passed away from cancer in 2010, looms over “Montauk.” She isn’t mentioned till the haunting final verse, but when she appears, you understand that she’s the engine that’s been driving the song’s mournful beauty. Wainwright lost a parent, and then he became one. “And though we want to stay for a while,” Wainwright sings, “don’t worry, we all have to go.”

GLG Year-End Picks: Melissa’s Top Videos of 2012

In Uncategorized on December 24, 2012 at 6:19 am

Here are 10 videos that I enjoyed in 2012. 5 of them are by female artists: while two of them are from 2011, I included them in this list as “rediscoveries,” because they were part of this year for me. The other 5 videos are by male artists or mixed groups. Many of them have already been discussed on GLG, so I’ve included links where relevant.

*disclaimer – many of these hip-hop videos feature explicit lyrics. Don’t say you weren’t warned.*

Videos Featuring Female Artists That Rocked My World in 2012

M.I.A. – “Bad Girls”

I scoured the Internet for top video lists to see how mine stacked up, and there wasn’t a list I could find that did NOT include M.I.A.’s controversial and infinitely watchable “Bad Girls.” A perfect balance of epic and fun, this video underscores the song’s claims to swagger with depictions of hagwalah, the Middle East’s take on drifting. The car stunts are bad ass and M.I.A. is ferociously sexy. If you don’t wish you were part of the dusty, dancing crowd by the end, you need to take some kind of fun supplement.

Nicki Minaj and Cassie – “The Boys”

The bubblegum but bad-ass world that Nicki made famous in “SuperBass” reappears here as an escapist candyland for broken-hearted lady MCs. But don’t be fooled by the sparkly eyeshadow, cotton candy, and pink hair salons. If you use your “bust-up swag” to cross these ferocious women, you face possible retribution via flame-throwers, razors, and quick-swerving cars. The video is a perfect fit for this tongue-in-cheek empowerment anthem, which pushes women to succeed together while the boys waste their money on trying to win “love.”

Iggy Azalea, featuring T.I. – “Murda Bizness” [studio version]

While Iggy released an official video for this song, I still prefer the version that features her, T.I., and Chip playing around in the studio. There’s a light-heartedness to this video’s swagger as the three rappers hold stacks of money up to the camera, lean over each others’ shoulders to swap lines, and throw finger guns with glee. As Sarah T. has said before, “I kill pride/ I hurt feelings” is a fantastic line, and it encapsulates perfectly the video’s ability to sport attitude without taking itself too seriously. Read the rest of this entry »

GLG Year-End Picks: Sarah S’s Favorite Books, TV Shows, and Songs

In books, music videos, Television on December 21, 2012 at 10:27 am

Sarah S.

Books

A Dance With Dragons, George R. R. Martin: The segmented plots of Westeros and beyond weave back together in book 5 of the Song of Ice and Fire series. The gang’s together again, so to speak, or at least all the members who’ve made it out alive. Writer faster, George! Write like the wind!

Bossy Pants, Tina Fey: Fey’s self-deprecation does not mask her confidence. Her funny, interesting memoir feels like a sneak peek into the life of the woman we all want to be when we grow up.

Blood, Bones, and Butter, Gabrielle Hamilton: Beautiful. Gritty. Raw. If you live in NYC, I hope you eat at Prune. Wherever you live, I hope you’ll read Gabrielle Hamilton’s exquisite memoir.

The End of Men, Hannah Rosen: I hesitate to call this book one of the year’s “best” but it’s undoubtedly one of the most fascinating.

TV Shows

True Blood: All good things must come to an end, but summers are going to be dry indeed once True Blood goes off the air. This last season had imperfections, including the painfully boring werewolf plot and the heinous Iraq storyline. On the other hand, we did learn a lot about the Authority (at last!), Eric became one of the most interesting and developed characters on the show, Sookie’s charm returned since Eric/Bill’s imprisonment and actress Anna Paquin’s pregnancy forced the character to interact again with her friends and not just mope around in cute dresses/naked. Last, the season took a flailing character—Tara—paired her with one of the series’ best supporters—Pam—and fireworks ensued. True to form, we are left with more questions than answers, especially since Bill has transformed into an evil vampire blood god or whatever. In terms of the unending love triangle, I would say that Eric’s chances are looking up. Oh, and if you are not yet convinced, I have two words: Russell. Edgington.

Boardwalk Empire: There are many ways to revitalize a struggling show, one riddled with complaints about style over substance. However, Boardwalk Empire took an unorthodox approach by ending season 2 with the killing of a major character. Season 3 opened a year and a half later and the audience had to play catch up as we watched Nucky, haunted by his actions, becoming more and more of a monster. Nucky’s development ricocheted out to the rest of the characters—from his wife, Margaret; his brother, Eli; and his “colleagues” Arnold Rothstein, Owen Slater, and Chalky White. Last, we were treated to one bad-ass baddie in Bobby Canavale’s Gyp Rosetti and the lovely development of Richard Harrow. Boardwalk’s always been an actor’s show and this season allowed its cast to shine, showing that—wonder of wonders—Steve Buscemi can anchor a series, Canavale deserves way more work, and that if you give actors meaty roles they will tear into them with gusto.

Sons of Anarchy: Last season I feared that my beloved Sons had jumped their motorcycles right over that eponymous shark. Instead, they brought on Jimmy Smits, complicated Tara and Jax and their relationship, killed off a major character (*sniffle* Opie), surrounded us with baddies yet never let them detract from the real conflict within the club, and revitalized Gemma. In a conversation to be continued, we officially need to come up with a term for shows that seem like they’re about the jump the shark but that—like SOA—do not.

Read the rest of this entry »

GLG Year-End Picks: Sarah T’s Most Important Celebrity Scandal of 2012

In celebrity gossip on December 21, 2012 at 5:20 am

Sarah T.

In 2012, Kristen Stewart cheated on Robert Pattinson. This made me root for her hard.

I was rooting for K. Stewart to begin with. I like how awkward she is; I like that she seems to be really feeling the grunge movement twenty years late and that she doesn’t often smile for cameras. I thought she was great when she was tough and mumbly in Adventureland and when she was vulnerable and mumbly in Twilight. I like her with the same stubbornness that I often feel for actresses a lot of other people find annoying, Anne Hathaway and Lena Dunham and Zooey Deschanel among them. If enough people find a woman irritating, she’s usually doing something interesting.

And this year, Stewart did something really interesting. She ruined her own love story.

The public version of Stewart and Pattinson’s relationship tracks with the Twilight narrative so closely that the two are nearly inextricable from one another: Stewart/Bella embarrassed and stiff and sincere, Pattinson/Edward emo and attractively self-loathing. For the past four years they’ve played their relationship close to the vest, in a manner not unlike the way a human girl and a vampire man-boy might go about a little sexy subterfuge. Given these parallels, it’s easy to be skeptical about the timing of their much-publicized breakup, which brought on a wave of extra publicity for the final part of the One True Sparkly Vampire Saga.

But after watching a pale and pained Pattinson stumble through an appearance on The Daily Show, it was hard to believe that their relationship was just a publicity stunt. And if his heartbreak was real, Stewart’s infidelity was too. Read the rest of this entry »

GLG Year-End Picks: Chelsea B’s Top TV Shows, Songs, and Books of 2012

In books, music videos, reality TV, Television on December 20, 2012 at 6:51 am

Top 5 Songs for Singing Along

“Hold On” by Alabama Shakes

“Call Me Maybe” by Carly Rae Jepsen (duh)

“Some Nights” by fun.

“Feel the Love” by Rudimental featuring John Newman

“Super Rich Kids” by Frank Ocean

Top 5 Reality Shows About Love

Here Comes Honey Boo Boo 

Real Housewives of Atlanta

Keeping Up with the Kardashians

Jersey Shore

Say Yes to the Dress: Atlanta Read the rest of this entry »

GLG Year-End Picks: Librarians Vote On the Top YA Books of 2012

In books, YA on December 19, 2012 at 2:30 pm

There are a lot of benefits to being friends with a librarian. She can show you the insane(ly awesome) Excel spreadsheet she keeps of all the books she wants to read in her lifetime, which she updates constantly and color-codes according to how much she likes a given book! She can explain to you how the Dewey Decimal system works! And when you ask her to recommend some of the best young adult books of 2012, she can send out her librarian bat signal to a ginormous listserv and compile the votes of over 70 different young adult librarians.

Big thanks to my pal Samantha for her help, and to the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) book group in particular. Y’all are amazing.

And so, without further ado, here are the 2012 young adult books that garnered the most votes from librarians who Know What They’re Talking About. Whether you’re in the mood for a World War II spy novel mind-bender, a funny-sad-smart tale about teenagers living with cancer, or a story about coming of age and coming out, there’s a YA book here for you (or for your favorite young’un). Let us know your own picks in the comments!

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

From The New York Times: “The Fault in Our Stars” is all the more heart-rending for its bluntness about the medical realities of cancer. There are harrowing descriptions of pain, shame, anger and bodily fluids of every type. It is a narrative without rainbows or flamingoes; there are no magical summer snowstorms. Instead, Hazel has to lug a portable oxygen tank with her wherever she goes, and Gus has a prosthetic leg. Their friend Isaac is missing an eye and later goes blind. These unpleasant details do nothing to diminish the romance; in Green’s hands, they only make it more moving. He shows us true love — two teenagers helping and accepting each other through the most humiliating physical and emotional ordeals — and it is far more romantic than any sunset on the beach.

The Diviners by Libba Bray

From The Plain Dealer: Pity poor 17-year-old Evie O’Neill. It’s 1926 and she’s stuck in Zenith, Ohio, a thudding bore of a town where her mother is secretary of the Women’s Temperance Society. Pretty Evie has a taste for giggle water and adventure. She’s also got a talent for divining other people’s secrets.

This girl is bound for trouble.

Codename Verity by Elizabeth Wein

From The New York Times: “Code Name Verity,” by Elizabeth Wein, is a fiendishly plotted mind game of a novel, the kind you have to read twice. The first time you just devour the story of girl-pilot-and-girl-spy friendship and the thrill of flying a plane and the horrors of Nazi torture and the bravery of French Resistance fighters and you force yourself to slow down, but you don’t want to, because you’re terrified these beautiful, vibrant characters are doomed. The second time, you read more slowly, proving to yourself that yes, the clues were there all along for you to solve the giant puzzle you weren’t even aware was constructed around you, and it takes focus and attention to catch all the little references to the fact that nothing is what you thought. Especially while you’re bawling your eyes out. Read the rest of this entry »

GLG Year-End Picks: Phoebe’s Top 5 TV Shows

In ABC Soaps, Dance Academy, Pretty Little Liars, Scandal, Television on December 19, 2012 at 11:31 am

I watch a lot of TV. Like a lot. Thus, I was excited to put together this list, which did prove quite hard as there is a lot of fun TV out there right now. Anyway, as I made this list, I realized that all my favorite shows feature amazing leading ladies (both on and off-screen). This top five (perhaps save for PLL) is in no order in particular.

1) Pretty Little Liars

Pretty-Little-Liars-Aria-Spencer-Emily-Hanna

PLL continues its reign in my top spot. I realize this is not a 2012 show BUT last season was so good. It included such gems as a Psycho-esque season finale, a Rear Window reference, and Jenna regaining her sight in the best femme fatale scene ever. Oh and then there is Mona … the best villainess ever.

2) The Mindy Project

mindy-project__oPt

I was sold by the preview and the pilot. There is something so hilarious and charming about the Mindy Project and its hilarious and pretty awesome (and very pretty) heroine. I love Mindy’s spacey and craziness, but also that she has this super successful and amazing career. Most recently, we saw sadly that her new boyfriend turned out to be a jerk, but the highlight of the episode was how great her friends were afterwards. Basically, The Mindy Project is delightful and snarky simultaneously.

Read the rest of this entry »

GLG’s 2012 Picks: Brian’s Top 3 Books

In books, dystopian literature, misogyny on December 18, 2012 at 9:56 am

brian psi

The books I was most surprised by this year—Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell and James Hogg’s The Private Memoirs and Secret Confessions of a Justified Sinner—are8 and 188 years old, respectively. But here are some of my favorites from the last year (and a half, sorry).

Ernest Cline – Ready Player One

The future sucks. So people stay inside, create avatars, and log into OASIS, an enormous virtual world—think Second Life if it was fun. The simulation’s eccentric, dead creator James Halliday has hidden a number of easter eggs inside, and so those with the requisite time, resources, and encyclopedic knowledge of the 1980’s pop culture Halliday loved search for them. These ‘gunters’ compete or cooperate in their quest to win the game, billions of dollars, and control of OASIS itself, now threatened by a corporate takeover. The plot follows Parzival, a high school kid from one of the teetering ‘stacks’ of trailer homes inhabited by the residents of 2044 Oklahoma City, and his online friends/rivals (frivals?) Aech and Art3mis. Together they obsess over the minutiae and meanings of the Duran Duran lyrics, Dungeons & Dragons modules, and John Hughes movies presumably also loved by first time author Cline (and many of his readers, including this one). Ready Player One was certainly the most joyous book I’ve picked up this year, even if I couldn’t shake the feeling that on some level it was always pandering to me. When it works—and it does more often than not—it’s because Cline makes an unabashed claim for the value—nay necessity—ofhit records and bad television. Artifacts of pop culture, like OASIS itself, provide an escape from our problems and those of the big bad world outside. But their playful scribbles, adorning our inner landscapes, also make us: building us up and breaking us down and giving each other things to share and argue about and just overall making life, well, livable.

Halloween Eve Cover

Brandon Montclare & Amy Reeder – Halloween Eve

I have already written a little about DC Comics’ 52 relaunch and some of its representations, so now I’ll shovel out some coal for their increasingly puzzling relationship with their female creators. It’s already been something of a dark December, with the great Gail Simone relieved of her duties as writer of Batgirl, and the killer Karen Berger—arguably the most important comics editor of the past 25 years—has announced her departure from the Vertigo imprint that she created and ran. Earlier in the year, the amazing Amy Reeder was forced off of Batwoman apparently at the behest of its new writer, J.H. Williams [alliterative deleted].

Shortly afterwards, Reeder (art) and Brandon Montclare (words) financed Halloween Eve through Kickstarter, and had it published by creator-owned Image Comics just in time for the holiday. The comic is a retelling of A Christmas Carol, with the titular Eve as the Scrooge of Samhain: she works in a popular costume shop but hates Halloween, dressing up, and unseriousness generally. Forced to work late the night before the big night, she is startled to find that the costumes are coming to life. They whisk her away to Halloween Land where Eve discovers the real reason for the season… which after a couple of reads is still somewhat unclear: at 40 pages, Halloween Eve is long for a single issue of an ongoing, but rather short for a self-contained work, and so the character relationships and development has to occur very quickly. Montclare’s script works within these limitations, but the book largely relies on Reeder’s art and layouts to tell its story. Luckily, while Halloween Eve is not as strong as the best issues of their collaboration on Madame Xanadu, it is neverthelesss a fantastic showcase for Reeder. Eve herself is a wonderfully realized character, and the monsters and demons that populate the other realm are perfect subjects for her (somewhat-manga influenced) art style: does anyone draw more expressive, almost three-dimensional eyes?

I should also say that there are depressingly few mainstream comics with black women as protagonists, so let’s hope that Halloween Eve’s success can help address this inbalance. Finally, at $3.99 this was the value of the year, pick up a few for next year’s All Hallow’s Read.

John Scalzi – Redshirts

Sci-fi author Scalzi probably received more attention for his blog than for his novels in 2012. His piece “Straight White Male: The Lowest Difficulty Setting There Is,” –which used the form and rhetoric of video games to explain privilege and how it operates without actually using the p-word—generated  thousands of comments, shares, tweets, reblogs, hatEmails, and  academic attention. In July he initiated a minor war with CNN contributor Joe Peacock over an opinion piece about how cosplayers—primarily women—weren’t ‘real’ geeks. Comic book artist Tony Harris made a similar post later in the year, which Scalzi also obliterated. (A brief aside for those unfamiliar with one of 2012’s most irritating trends, the best response to the ‘fake geek girl’ manplaint is still albinwonderland’s video, also a response to Harris).

So, Redshirts. Scalzi’s latest novel is a loving satire of Star Trek, in which three new junior crewmembers of the U.U. Intrepid discover that lower-ranked officers are dying off with alarming frequency: disintegrated by weapons fire, mauled by killer robots, eaten by space oozes, etc. Meanwhile, the bridge crew seem to live charmed lives, healing from devastating injuries overnight and surviving attacks that would emulsify ensigns and liquefy second lieutenants. Naturally, there is a conspiracy afoot, but not the kind that the characters and most readers expect. There is a highly metafictional plot twist about halfway through, after which much of the gallows humor fades and the book becomes something else entirely. Some readers will likely not follow the leap that Scalzi makes here, his attempt to go for bigger emotions in the book’s “three codas.” I’m of course a super sappy emo kid, but a couple of the endings made me cry. If Frankenstein asked us what responsibility the creator has for their created; Redshirts raises (or perhaps lowers) the stakes by suggesting that even fictional creations deserve our respect and care: these literary lives, too, are worthwhile, and we should not be so quick to discard them (or subject them to lazily-written transporter accidents).

Brian Psiropoulos is a dad and PhD candidate in English literature. He likes stuff, especially gothic Victorian novels, superhero comics, and video games. Also tennis.

Date, Marry, Dump: Hobbit Edition

In Film on December 17, 2012 at 7:01 am

Sarah T.

As a Tolkien ignoramus, I watched The Hobbit in a haze of appreciative semi-confusion. I thought the goblins were orcs. I thought Thorin was the same person as Thrain in the flashbacks. I couldn’t follow what-all Elron and Galadriel were going on about, although whether that was because they were being ethereally boring or because I was distracted by hair-envy on both counts is up for debate. “What do dragons want with gold anyway?” I whispered to my friend S., who explained that they liked to bathe in it, which: with that kind of conspicuous consumption, no wonder they went the way of Marie Antoinette.

I emerged from the movie certain of only two things. First, I want a pet hedgehog and I will call it Sebastian. Second, I know exactly who I would date, who I would marry, and who I would dump.

Date

Dwarves are short, grumbly types who are very good at choreographing rowdy “Be Our Guest”-style kitchen clean-ups, rocking that 80s hair band look, and eating entire wheels of cheese–men after my own heart. (Also, are there any girl dwarves? Is there just one, Smurfette style?) But while they are very cuddly, it became clear, watching them barge into poor Bilbo’s round-doored cottage one by one, that most of them are not ultra-romantically-attractive in the conventional sense. Attractive to me, I mean! A lid for every pot, etc.

But then The Hobbit threw me a curveball. Two curveballs, as a matter of fact, by the names of Fili and Kili:

Well hello there.

Come and knock on my door, I’ll be waiting for you.

“There are the cute dwarves,” I whispered to my neighbor, who agreed, particularly about the skinny dark-haired one on the right. But then. THEN! There’s a last knock at the door. “He is here,” Gandalf says dramatically. And a moment later we all understand why Gandalf was being all OMG-my-crush-just-walked-into-the-high-school-dance, because look at this face: Read the rest of this entry »

GLG Weekly Round-Up

In #Kasandra Michelle Perkins, gender, race on December 7, 2012 at 10:13 am

On remembering Kassandra Michelle Perkins, from the Feminist Wire:

“Each time we say her name we remember her life and her tragic murder.  Each time we say Kasandra Michelle Perkins, we remember her 4-month old daughter who lost her mom and her dad on December 2, 2012.  Each time we say her name we push back at the privileging of celebrity-life  over her death.  Each time we say her name we are hopefully reminded of the ubiquity of domestic/partner murder.  Each time we say her name, we refuse the silence and erasure of domestic violence and intimate partner murder, particularly when the victims are women of color.  Each time we say her name we refuse the racism and sexism that obscures the humanity of those lives lost.  We challenge the discomfort that compels silence and erasure.”

Jada Pinkett Smith on Willow’s new hair, from the Feminist Griote:

” I made a promise to endow my little girl with the power to always know that her body, spirit and her mind are HER domain. Willow cut her hair because her beauty, her value, her worth is not measured by the length of her hair. It’s also a statement that claims that even little girls have the RIGHT to own themselves and should not be a slave to even their mother’s deepest insecurities, hopes and desires. Even little girls should not be a slave to the preconceived ideas of what a culture believes a little girl should be.”

Fit and Feminist tackles a crazy kickstarter campaign and body size:

“Respect is not a zero-sum game, y’all.  Recognizing the humanity of one group of people and treating them with respect and dignity does not suddenly mean we have to treat another group of people like shit.  There’s plenty of respect and dignity to go around.”

Lit mag The Destroyer let GLG’s Sarah T.  talk about Lana Del Rey, Santigold, race, and American nostalgia:

“Nostalgia lays present-day fantasies over the past like an automatic filter. It’s also a luxury available mostly to the privileged: the people who get moony-eyed about the past while ignoring its injustices tend to be the ones who have it pretty easy in the present.”

Rookie magazine hosts an honest, open, and very multifaceted roundtable on cultural appropriation:

“I’m not saying, ‘Burn all of your turbans/bindis/feathered headdresses/face paint/kimonos/etc.!’ I’m just saying learn about why, even if you don’t feel like you are oppressing someone, you may be participating in an act that has played an important part in oppressing/silencing/shaming other cultures.”

Sady Doyle questions why she uses theory in non-academic contexts and wonders who she’s writing for; Kara Jesella responds.

“As much as I would love to have a specific sort of audience, the sort of people who are just dazzlingly literate and cool and have a lot of feelings about Big Star and would dissolve into bubbling goo like the Wicked Witch of the West if Coors Light passed through their lips, I’m not sure that I write for them any more.”

AND

“to reiterate: i love theory, i have always loved theory, except for when i hate it, but, like, i can avoid zizek. and it probably hasn’t really gotten me much except a lot of debt.”

Spielberg’s Lincoln and the Problem with Biopics

In Film on December 3, 2012 at 8:47 pm

Sarah T.

Y So Srs, Though.

Y So Srs, Though.

Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln is a movie for squares, which means that it’s going to be swimming in Oscars like Scrooge McDuck (also kind of a square, incidentally). Everyone at the Academy Awards will be excited to see Daniel Day-Lewis, because if low-information memory serves he’s a Belgian shoe cobbler who only emerges from his boot-house once every seven years to remind everybody how long his legs are. Remember Gangs of New York? The man was like a daddy long legs on stilts.

As Lincoln, he’s kind of wheezy and stooped and noble like a chipped ceramic lion. I can’t say I got much feel for the inner workings of our nation’s 16th president, which probably isn’t Day-Lewis’s fault. At this point in American history, we’ve canonized Lincoln so much that I can’t imagine any mainstream filmmaker daring to bring him down to earth. This is a movie that, I kid you not, ends with a close-up of the dead president as seen through a candle, and then a tiny ghost version of Lincoln shows up inside the candle flame, giving a speech, which is very distracting. Nobody reacts onscreen, because in the 19th century this was just one of the hazards of home decor. Napoleon Bonaparte’s poltergeist hung out in snuffbox for years and nobody could snuff anything. Then the candle dissolves so that tiny ghost Lincoln becomes Lincoln in a flashback, completing his speech, but I couldn’t pay any attention to what he was saying because I was too busy being shocked by the most over-the-top ending since ET flew away in a Skittles rainbow. No knocks to ET. It’s an okay move when you’re making the world’s most perfect alien fairy tale. But the Hall of Presidents has more grit than this movie.

Pretty much the only fun parts of Lincoln are listening to Tommy Lee Jones (as Thaddeus Stevens) relish calling the guy from Pushing Daisies inventively mean names and thinking about the historical role of hairpieces in the legislative process. The only moving part of Lincoln also involves Tommy Lee Jones. I found myself wishing that the whole movie was about him, though then I’m sure his character would have just had to shoulder Spielberg’s earnest self-seriousness.

The movie got me thinking: When was the last time I saw a biopic that wasn’t a snoozefest? I think I might hate this genre. The Queen, The King’s Speech, Walk the Line, Ray, Capote, A Beautiful Mind: I call these critically acclaimed films Safety Ambien. Filmmakers seem to lose their powers of imagination–and any impulse toward risk–when they’re confronted with larger-than-life historical figures. Instead they want to be respectable, which is a lovely quality in a headmaster or a piece of toast but less desirable in arts and entertainment. Also, maybe most people’s lives just aren’t interesting enough to make into movies. Even the most fascinating parts take like 15 minutes and then they’re over, which would be helpful for me to remember the next time I’m getting resentful about how boring it is to clean the bathtub.

I just made a quick mental list of all the biopics I have ever liked, and it is three items long:

Amadeus

Persepolis

Milk

Obviously, though, I haven’t seen All the Biopics there are. (If I had, I guess I would have died of boredom and I’d be talking to you from inside a candle.) Are there less staid and stately ones out there? And do you think we just shouldn’t be allowed to make movies about real people unless those movies involve time travel? At least Bill and Ted knew how to make history come alive.

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