Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Where is my motivation?

The 2007 NaNo pep talk by Neil Gaiman that's keeping me sane...

Dear NaNoWriMo Author,

By now you're probably ready to give up. You're past that first fine furious rapture when every character and idea is new and entertaining. You're not yet at the momentous downhill slide to the end, when words and images tumble out of your head sometimes faster than you can get them down on paper. You're in the middle, a little past the half-way point. The glamour has faded, the magic has gone, your back hurts from all the typing, your family, friends and random email acquaintances have gone from being encouraging or at least accepting to now complaining that they never see you any more---and that even when they do you're preoccupied and no fun. You don't know why you started your novel, you no longer remember why you imagined that anyone would want to read it, and you're pretty sure that even if you finish it it won't have been worth the time or energy and every time you stop long enough to compare it to the thing that you had in your head when you began---a glittering, brilliant, wonderful novel, in which every word spits fire and burns, a book as good or better than the best book you ever read---it falls so painfully short that you're pretty sure that it would be a mercy simply to delete the whole thing.

Welcome to the club.

That's how novels get written.

You write. That's the hard bit that nobody sees. You write on the good days and you write on the lousy days. Like a shark, you have to keep moving forward or you die. Writing may or may not be your salvation; it might or might not be your destiny. But that does not matter. What matters right now are the words, one after another. Find the next word. Write it down. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

A dry-stone wall is a lovely thing when you see it bordering a field in the middle of nowhere but becomes more impressive when you realise that it was built without mortar, that the builder needed to choose each interlocking stone and fit it in. Writing is like building a wall. It's a continual search for the word that will fit in the text, in your mind, on the page. Plot and character and metaphor and style, all these become secondary to the words. The wall-builder erects her wall one rock at a time until she reaches the far end of the field. If she doesn't build it it won't be there. So she looks down at her pile of rocks, picks the one that looks like it will best suit her purpose, and puts it in.

The search for the word gets no easier but nobody else is going to write your novel for you.

The last novel I wrote (it was ANANSI BOYS, in case you were wondering) when I got three-quarters of the way through I called my agent. I told her how stupid I felt writing something no-one would ever want to read, how thin the characters were, how pointless the plot. I strongly suggested that I was ready to abandon this book and write something else instead, or perhaps I could abandon the book and take up a new life as a landscape gardener, bank-robber, short-order cook or marine biologist. And instead of sympathising or agreeing with me, or blasting me forward with a wave of enthusiasm---or even arguing with me---she simply said, suspiciously cheerfully, "Oh, you're at that part of the book, are you?"

I was shocked. "You mean I've done this before?"

"You don't remember?"

"Not really."

"Oh yes," she said. "You do this every time you write a novel. But so do all my other clients."

I didn't even get to feel unique in my despair.

So I put down the phone and drove down to the coffee house in which I was writing the book, filled my pen and carried on writing.

One word after another.

That's the only way that novels get written and, short of elves coming in the night and turning your jumbled notes into Chapter Nine, it's the only way to do it.

So keep on keeping on. Write another word and then another.

Pretty soon you'll be on the downward slide, and it's not impossible that soon you'll be at the end.

Good luck...
Neil Gaiman
Music: Starlight - Muse
Mood: Still procrastinating

Three cheers for Jim Parsons

I love you Sheldon Cooper.

Music: Doomsday and the echo - Lovedrug
Mood: Procrastinating

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Whedon, writing, insecurities and other such stuff

Another weekend without uni productivity. Someone slap me. Actually, nevermind that now, I'm busy. Have I pointed out how I am not cut out for a 9-5 (or rather more aptly 8-5) full-time job? Because I am so not. Ooooooh so not. Mind stagnation rebels at.

Can't believe the weekend is over already. Not looking forward to work tomorrow and having to rustle up the remaining profiles and intros. Then we start the entire damnable process all over again, it's so repetitive that stabbing myself in the eye seems like a reasonable way to liven things up. But seriously, it's so annoying to be so busy all the time and definitely not good for my writing drive - I haven't done any writing since I've been working there and seeing as that is what I want to do with my miserable existence, that is not good people. Aaaah.

Speaking of writing, had an absolutely terrifying crisis of faith yesterday where, as I was reading over the first chapter of the novel I'd started workshopping last semester, I was entirely convinced that it was rubbish and entirely not what I was trying to say. I was at the hairdressers at the time which meant I had to suppress my horror, but it was not fun. I need to write Chapter 2 and 3 by Wednesday, so I can workshop it in class next week. That's going to be a fun Tuesday night. I was just feeling really miserable that this is the life I have damned myself to - and not entirely out of choice either, this is just what I do. I can't help it. Writing is the one thing I've been able to stick to through my long line of obsessions, it's the one thing I haven't given up on because I didn't want to have to work to be perfect. I think writing is particularly well suited to perfectionists, because no writer is ever happy, there is no real line that you can reach and say this is perfection, it just won't happen. So I don't give up on it. I just keep writing cause my mind keeps turning out these scenes and lines and I must do something with them.

Anyway, writers know the mood I'm talking about - the one where you are entirely convinced everything you do is utterly useless and you're wasting your life. We're all there at some point or another. I blame this sudden onset of self-doubt on my all my writing theory classes because it has made me question absolutely everything about my writing, resulting in agonising over themes that could be read into that I wasn't actually intending, or whether the point of view I've chosen is working, whether the setting is appropriate or should I rather go for speculative fiction, whether it wouldn't work better with two protagonists, flashbacks and the most worryingly, whether anyone would read a story in which the protagonist isn't a hero, isn't entirely likable, and wherein in fact there are no heroes and no one is really redeemed. It'd be like reading a novel in which The Master was your lead. I'd read it, but I don't know if anyone else would. From what I understand commercially you're better off having someone the audience can relate to, and just because I like relating to sociopaths, doesn't mean anyone else does. I don't like writing literary fiction, so genre fiction is all I have and I must cater to that audience, but at the same time I want to write the characters I want to write, tell the stories I believe in.

As I was moping through my files, trying to find something I'd written that was even halfway decent and profusely cursing my writing lecturer, I stumbled upon a NaNo pep talk from a few years ago that really made me feel a lot better. I'll post it after this because it should be shared. Another thing that cheered me up was attending the Joss Whedon talk at the Opera House this afternoon. R, M and I had a lovely giggly lunch before settling in for the ninety-minute talk that was part Joss discussing where he writes from and why, and part Q&A led by the always wonderfully funny Wil Anderson.

First off, let me just say what an absolutely nice guy Joss seems to be. He's entirely unassuming, gracious, as witty as you'd expect him to be, and he just respects his audience so much. It was so nice to be part of a fandom group that felt loved for a little while. A couple of things about this talk really resonated with me. I go to these talks more and more as an apprentice if you will, rather than a fan. It's comforting to hear people of such caliber speak about issues and experiences in writing that I can identify in myself even now, though I am not much. It's like being told 'Don't worry, you're on the right track.'

I found it rather interesting that Joss said fanfiction was the greatest compliment you could ever be paid by your fans, because it means you've created something they love enough to dedicate hours to. That's such a different thing you normally hear from people on this subject, and I thought it was rather lovely. The character death issue came up, of course, and Joss is entirely right in saying that death needs to happen - but that it should be meaningful, that people should feel something, and that it should have a point. He mentioned that he had no idea what a big deal Willow and Tara would be, and he mentioned that he developed a story arc to bring Tara back to life, but that Amber couldn't do it, which I think alludes to the notion that once he discovered what a big deal Tara actually was to his fans, he wanted to fix it. Another thing that stood out was his mention of Firefly, and how losing it was incredibly painful because it is like a child to him. He went on to say that he learnt so much about grief during that process, because it is something you absolutely never get over. You merely learn to deal with it and adapt to life without it - like losing an arm and learning to tie your shoes with one hand - but the grief never truly goes away.

Overall though, it was a very enlightening and amusing talk and I just left feeling inspired and energised about the whole thing. The overwhelming sense of the event to me was just the feeling of how much he respects his characters (he said he wants his characters to love him so much that he becomes them), his worlds, and his fans - ultimately I think it's because of this attitude that he gets away with being dark and destroying the things his fans love, his fans forgive him in the end because there's a greater purpose to it and there's a trust there that he doesn't take them for granted, and indeed, that he knows what he's doing.

So thanks to Joss Whedon and Neil Gaiman, I'm feeling much better about this self-imposed torture known as writing again, even though I know I'll probably never be even a fraction as successful as they are. A girl can dream right? And let's face it, when you're stuck in this banal cycle of routine that is my life right now, dreams are all I have.

Oh and I finally bought my plane ticket to Melbourne - now I just need to get time off....yes, I know, I'm doing it all backwards, whatever. I'm going to Aussiecon and work can't stop me.

One last thing, I've recently rediscovered my Tumblr. If it seems like I'm neglecting things here, it's merely cause I don't have time and I'm wasting what little I have re-blogging nonsense over there.

Music: Data, Data, Data - Hans Zimmer
Mood: Could do with some tea actually

The long overdue (and not very good) Scott Pilgrim vs. The World review

As you may know, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is based on the popular graphic novel series by Brian Lee O’Malley that appeared in six black and white volumes between 2004 and 2010. The film adaption was directed by Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, Grindhouse) and stars Michael Cera (Arrested Development, Juno) as the 23 year old slacker Scott Pilgrim. Basically, the plot revolves around the Toronto native and bass player for the band Sex Bob-omb falling in love with American delivery girl Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) but he must defeat her seven evil exes in order to date her.

This film hits the ground running. From the very moment the Universal logo appears on the screen, you’re dragged into Scott’s hyper real world and never given pause to think about it. It’s speedy, funny, and bittersweet, with such an entirely infectious spirit that just feels so inexpressibly right. The dialogue is packed full with deadpan humour and is perfectly delivered by a pitch perfect cast, interspersing the action with heart that may surprise many. The visuals are a pop-art feast of stylistic hyper colour, subverting a recognisable real world with layers of imagery taken lovingly from video games.

Scott’s gay roommate Wallace Wells (played brilliantly by Kieran Culkin) is arguably one of the best characters gracing movie theatre screens at this very moment, commenting on Scott’s life while having his own. He simultaneously embodies the notion of quintessential gay roommate and yet completely subverts the stereotype – probably worth a post in its own right, if I had time (which I don’t.) After Scott has his heart broken by Envy (Brie Larson), who has become a successful rock star, he pursues an innocent romance with naive high schooler Knives Chau (Ellen Wong) with activities mainly including visits to the thrift shop and hours of Dance Dance Revolution.

For Knives, Scott and Sex Bob-omb are pretty much the coolest thing ever and she rapidly becomes the very embodiment of a band fangirl. Anyone who has ever loved a band will quickly identify with Sex Bob-omb, consisting of tormented lead singer/guitarist Stephen Stills (Mark Webber), scowling drummer Kim Pine (Alison Pill) and (what Abbi and I would call) the unemployed friend who sort of just hangs around, Young Neil (Johnny Simmons). Music is incredibly important to the tone of the film – Sex Bob-omb’s songs were written by Beck and performed by the cast.

Scott is quite content in basking in the reflected coolness and Knives’ adoration until he meets Ramona Flowers, cool girl extraordinaire. Sadly for Scott however, Ramona’s romantic history is one fraught with danger, and he must defeat each of her seven evil exes united to keep her from dating again. The battle sequences that follow are as much action sequence as witty repartee, the frenetic visuals adding that edge of slightly manic enjoyment that characterises Wright’s earlier spoof films. As the battles progress, the exes’ powers and Scott’s are tallied up and he progresses from one to the other, from level to level, in a way that’s instantly recognisable to anyone who has ever played any sort of game – aided by fast cuts, sharp dialogue, bright imagery and a myriad of puns and gags.

The film has it's flaws of course, it can feel a bit long in parts and sometimes it may seem as if it got carried away. I think it does the film an injustice however to merely class it as a ‘video game movie.’ It has depth that would surely resonate with anyone who has loved, lost, or merely pined away for something you thought you wanted but turned out you actually didn’t. The film’s sincerity is what truly sets it apart from others, a remarkably honesty in acknowledging the complications of youth from the uncertainty to self-doubt. This is not just a film for Generation Y, it’s a film for anyone who was young, anyone who has loved music/bands and anyone who wants to have some fun.

In the end, the themes that Scott Pilgrim vs. The World embody are not new or revolutionary, but they are presented in such an entirely new package that challenges and defies every cookie-cutter coming-of-age film out there. This film should resonate with every geeky music-lover out there, and even if you don’t fit that box, you should still be able to be charmed by the heart of this ‘epic of epic epicness’ because it doesn’t really fit any boxes either, and after all, wasn’t everybody young once?

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World has been out here in the land of Oz for little over two weeks now, and it’s not doing nearly as well as it by rights should be. On this note, I urge everyone to read this Vanity Fair article and then when you're trying to decide whether to see Avatar again for seven minutes of new footage or contemplating Piranah 3D, maybe you'll think more seriously about seeing this film instead. It is a breath of fresh air in a world of commercial generic blockbusters and it doesn’t deserve to flop. As Vanity Fair rightly point out, we don’t want studios to stop taking risks (have you seen the previews for Charlie St Cloud? Do you really want to be stuck with stuff like that for the rest of your movie going life?), so take a chance and try something new. Maybe you aren’t a geek or a gamer, you are/were a teenager right? You might like it and even if you don’t, well hey, you did something new. That’s always a plus. Plus it could give you something to complain about. Kids these days, you know...

Note: You can preview all of the graphic novels here.

Music: Discombobulate - Hans Zimmer
Mood: Working

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Definition of win

You have the power!

Hahahahahahaha! I nearly choked when I saw this.

Taken from here.

Music: Little Cream Soda - The White Stripes
Mood: Working

Monday, August 23, 2010

The path to the dark side

Seeing as I am probably going to have to work late tonight, I figure I can take some time out to do a blog. And by blog I mean whine. I cannot convey how much I hate my life right now. See, got right to it. No wasting time with niceties. This is going to be a gloom and doom post, if you're not interested in pathetic expressions of situation, I suggest you go elsewhere.

This particular state of oh-god-kill-me set in last night in class as sitting directly behind me was Tweedledum and Tweedledee. I'm not even kidding. Constantly giggling and chatting quietly to each other during the lecture, and making the sort of comments to actual discussion that made me want to turn around and glare at them led me to the realisation that holy crap, I'd become on of those people. I was also so short-tempered that I kind of blew up over The Da Vinci Code which was our set text. I've only read it once, back in Year 11, but I remember being completely incapable of putting it down. Of course in class it started out with the 'let's discuss how terrible it is' vibe and then the ten million dollar remark that it was meant 'for the great unwashed.' Fucking literary snobs. In my opinion, when analysing the success of a book such as The Da Vinci Code, there is no point looking at it from the point of view of 'I am a Masters student, hear my theory roar!' Put yourself in the shoes of your average person who just reads for enjoyment and then analyse why it worked. Sure it's not War & Peace, but what average person wants to read that? This then is precisely the view point I took. Screw it, there is a tendency in educational institutions where people will harp on about something being bad merely because that's what they think should be done - let me tell you something, they all wish they could sell as well as Dan Brown - or JK Rowling, who is another author that gets knocked all the time at uni.

Jealousy's the cousin, the cousin of greed.

Rah. It wasn't that bad though, they seemed to concede the point after discussion. I'm just particularly touchy because I have put up with four years worth of thinking along those lines. Which brings me to my original point, for the first time ever I actually felt over uni. Completely over it in the can't-wait-to-get-out-of-here way. I think it comes off the back of the feeling that none of the subjects I'm taking this semester can really teach me anything new. I've taken so many writing classes that, while popular fiction approaches it from a different angle, it's just beating the same drum really. And Theory & Writing is in essence the same framework as Culture & Poetics and my Honours Writing Workshop.

Now, arguably this is what a Masters program is for, building upon your existing knowledge to augment a wider understanding of different issues. That'd be fine....if I wasn't also working full-time. I don't have the patience to spend three hours a night essentially looking at a familiar landscape with new glasses, I don't have the time to really engage with eighty pages worth of reading every week...and as a result I fear I'm getting nothing new out of the classes. An attitude problem on my part, I admit, but I don't know what I can do about it. I just don't care.

Then there's work - ugh. Loathsome. That is all. I absolutely loathe it. I don't know how I am expected to get through this kind of work load every single month, it's fucking insane. For one magazine I have 25 editorials in one section, 8 in another, a business profile, and 10 in yet another. And because the ad guys sell late and clients are idiots, I am still to receive material for 16 of these - and it's deadline on Friday. Plus three introductions need to be written for the separate sections. Yeah, you think, that's not so bad, what are you complaining about? Keep in mind this is just one magazine, I have two others as well and I am supposed to update the website. It wouldn't even be so bad if it wasn't for the fact that I am also the lackey, so it's not like I can just sit here and bang it all out in five hours. Oh and of course that hinges on clients actually supplying information. My head cannot meet my desk hard enough to express my frustration. It just cannot be done.

So anyway yes, the combined elements of work and uni (even though I know my feelings towards uni are symptomatic of my feelings toward work) has left me with a general deflated outlook on my life as a whole - considering that 90% of my life consists of work and uni, not all together surprising. And I know this is taking a toll on me too because my hair is in an absolutely terrible state - sounds weird, but my hair is always the first thing to go. I just cannot believe that this is my life - that I have done this to myself. Four months ago I had a cushy part-time job, and sure I may not have had paid leave, but I had free time. Honestly, what the hell was I thinking? Actually, I know what I was thinking, the same thing my mum keeps telling me, that'd I'd learn a lot and it would help further along the track....but first I have to get further down the track. Groan.

Still a year, over a year of this, of every month going through this exact same thing again and again. I fear if the frustration doesn't kill me, the mediocrity will. I'm hoping that having something to work towards - a proverbial light at the end of the tunnel - will get me through it relatively sane. Just knowing that there is an end. Not quite as soon as I'd maybe like, but it's there. The very longest I have to stay here is 64 weeks aka 447 days - only 320 of which are work days, excluding public holidays and time off (I think, I don't know, my math is pretty dodgy.) And then....the great unknown. I cannot imagine anything better. Speaking of days off, I'm taking two off next week to go to Aussiecon, so hey, I guess it's not all bad.

So that's the blah blah blah woe is me, 'I better do well in this degree regardless of all this or someone will get hurt' nonsense out of the way. Scott Pilgrim review to follow later.

Music: None, forgot to charge my iPod
Mood: Frustrated

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Hello world!

Omg blog I've missed you! Don't ever leave me! Aaaah *clings*

Look this is ridiculous, I need to work out some sort of schedule and stick to it. It's just really hard to find time for the interwebz in between being at uni and studying for uni. Oh and work. Yes, there is that. I think it’s fair to say I’ve officially reached the point where I loathe my job – and in three months, too. I feel bad about that, but I can’t help it. The clients are just so endlessly frustrating to deal with, and we all know I have no patience. I screwed up on Friday too and felt so awful about it, my mood just went straight down the drain. I know everyone screws up at some point or another, but...gah. I don’t allow it of myself, it kills me. Since our deputy editor is on holiday at the moment (thereby leaving me all by myself in the office – thus all the tweeting about music), I also had to approve the final colour proofs. I spent like thirty minutes agonising over it. I'm slightly terrified of it. What if I missed something? I'm sick and my brain isn't working! Aaaah! I could never live with myself if I screwed that up. Where’s my paper bag...

Forgetting that for the moment, I've been mentally storing up so much stuff to blog about that I barely knew where to begin. Instead of doing an insanely long post of nonsense however, I decided to split it up into separate posts instead. Here they be:

> Goblin vampires with kinks: a contemplation of Thirteen Bullets by David Wellington

> The role model conundrum: I never considered myself to have a role model, but maybe I just didn't notice.

> The Uni Chronicles: presentations, readings, and film watching

> Feminists, there’s one in every class: what it says on the tin people.

> Letting go of everything you know: grumbling about the woe of being into Torchwood – yes, again. Once more with feeling! etc etc

> Follow the yellow brick road: a post of all the random links and oddities I’ve been hoarding

> The game is on: A fangirl post about the greatest thing to enter my life in the last year

> Wait a minute, this sounds like Science and or Fiction: A breakdown of the results of the Top 200 character polls to celebrate SFX magazine’s 200th issue

In general news of the moment, I've been sick as a dog all week. It hasn't been much fun. Had the first meeting of our Writers group last Saturday which wasn't exactly a brilliant success, but a start all the same. Last night was spent hanging out with L and his friends, the evening went quite a bit later than I expected but was good fun all the same. I am shortly heading off to watch Scott Pilgrim with Stono. Yesterday was supposed to be a productive day for uni work, but of course it wasn’t. I spent it voting, helping the parentals, and writing these blog posts. But there’s still time! It’s still good, it’s still good.

So yeaaaah. That will do for now. I’m going to go watch the last part of Rememberance of the Daleks. Oh Seven, you amuse me so.

Just for kicks, here is what a schedule of my life would look like, on a uni day:

6am Wake up, take Oreo for a walk (depending on how many times the ‘Snooze’ function has been abused)
7am Leave for work
8.30am - 4.30pm Work. Pretty much nonstop. Only with periodic personal email breaks. And I very rarely actually manage to leave at 4.30.
5.30pm Arrive at uni, either wander off to Starbucks/library/class as required.
6pm to 9pm – In class, usually involves yawning, skimming of readings, and a five minute break somewhere in the middle.
9.45pm Arrive home
10pm - 12am Complete any readings or films required for uni, blog, get some writing done.

It’s all pretty much standard until we get to the last block – that’s usually where I just end up sitting around doing nothing, before falling into bed some time after. The last thing I think of is opening my laptop, but now that I have a TV and DVD player in my room, I might actually do the watching bit of the plan.

Au revoir my pretties, I hope at least someone finds something to enjoy in my epic posts!

Music: All you need is love - The Beatles
Mood: Accomplished

Wait a minute, this sounds like Science and or Fiction

This is great. The result of the Top 200 SFX character polls, celebrating the 200th issue of SFX.

Here’s the top 3 of every category, followed by my two cents cause I’m geeky like that.

> Favourite Robots & Androids

1. R2D2 (Star Wars)
2. Data (Star Trek: Next Gen)
3. Bender (Futurama)

Everyone loves R2D2, or as C3PO would say the “overweight glob of grease” or “near-sighted scrap pile”. Speaking of R2’s counterpart, he comes in at number 12. No one likes a whinger, C3PO. The Terminator is “back” in 8 (haha see what I did there...never mind) while he of the pointless soliloquy, Optimus Prime, is 9th. I love that KITT is on the list – I used to think KITT was the coolest. It’s one of those things I’d have thought would just fade away into obscurity, but no, clearly talking cars still have it.

> Favourite Monsters, Supernatural Beings & Fantasy Creatures

1. Daleks (Doctor Who)
2. Lorne (Angel)
3. Aliens (um, Alien)

Honourable mention to Gollum, who came in fifth. Yay LOTR. Also Ludo from Labyrinth in 15, and ‘The Great Dragon’ from Merlin in 18...that poor dragon, if he could facepalm I’m sure he would.

> Favourite Superheroes & Comic-Book Characters

1. Batman
2. Wolverine
3. Spider-Man

How does Mr. Whiny Boredom Pants (aka Spider-Man) manage to get to third beating out both Death and Morpheus (6 and 8 respectively) from The Sandman, and Iron Man (10th)? I mean really, Iron Man! Peter should hit Tony up for some personality, and then maybe I’d give him a break.

> Favourite Alien

1. Spock (Star Trek)
2. Yoda (Star Wars)
3. Zaphod Beeblebrox (The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy)

The Star Trek franchise pretty much owns this category, 5 on the list, with Babylon 5 coming in with 4.

> Favourite Sages, Mentors and Boffins

1. Rupert Giles (Buffy The Vampire Slayer)
2. Topher Brink (Dollhouse)
3. Gandalf (Lord of the Rings)

This one’s pretty great actually. Obi Wan at 4, Walter from Fringe at 5; Back to the Future’s Doc Brown comes in at 8 followed by Dumbledore. Sirius Black is at 11, which should please Miss L, and adorably Alfred from Batman takes out 14. I’m slightly perplexed why Uther is in 16 – shouldn’t it be Gaius? I mean all Uther does is shriek “Magicz! Kill it!” (see also: Dom’s Merlin post of WIN)

> Favourite Villains

1. The Master (Doctor Who)
2. Darth Vader (Star Wars)
3. The Joker (Batman)

No surprises here. The pic included is sadly not of John Simm’s Master, but what can you do? Davros and Voldemort come in at 5 and 6, while that idiotic Sylar from Heroes is in 7th. I find it amusing that Jareth from Labyrinth is in 10th, I guess with all that singing and prancing about, he just didn’t strike me as that villainous (I so love that movie.)

> Favourite Anti-Heroes, Accidental Good Guys and Dodgy Do-Gooders

1. Dr Horrible (Dr Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog)
2. Jayne Cobb (Firefly)
3. Captain John Hart (Torchwood)

I love the title of this section so, so much. Dodgy Do-Gooders! Win. And the top three freaking rules. Yes, freaking, I’m a nineties skater kid. Also, if you haven’t seen Dr. Horrible, you really should, it is made of win – I’ll give you the equation: Joss Whedon + Neil Patrick Harris + Nathan Fillion = Awesome. Snape takes out fourth *huggles* and Life on Mars’ Gene Hunt comes in at 5. These are all pretty cool really, as anti-heroes inevitably are.

> Favourite Vampires

1. Dracula
2. Spike (Buffy The Vampire Slayer)
3. Angel (Buffy The Vampire Slayer)

You can tell these are proper sci-fi voters cause Edward Cullen is only 14th, haha. I think Spike is my favourite vampire (Angel rather gets on my nerves sometimes), and I quite like Mitchell from Being Human – he came in fourth. Drusilla is 5th with Eric from True Blood in 6th – interestingly enough Bill only makes it in at 18. One of my other faves, Lestat, is 11th – kept out of the top 10 by Mick from Moonlight, Selene from Underworld, Buffy’s Darla and Count Duckula. I think he deserves to be above the last two at least! Blade’s in 17th and the only other Cullen clan member to make the list is – dun dun dun – Jasper! Excellent *steeples fingers*

> Favourite Hero

1. The Doctor (Doctor Who)
2. Malcolm ‘Mal’ Reynolds (Firefly)
3. Dean Winchester (Supernatural)

Drinks all round! The Doctor is, of course, the ultimate. They’re all brilliant characters and not only fun, but also engaging to watch. I’d like to point out that everyone’s favourite dearly departed fictional welsh boyfriend, one Ianto Jones, made it in 5th – beating out Han Solo, Indiana Jones Wesley from Angel & Buffy, and Captain Jack Harkness. Hahaha, they’re not going to like that (childish, I know, forgive me.)

> Favourite Heroine

1. Sarah Conner (Terminator franchise)
2. Buffy Summers (Buffy The Vampire Slayer)
3. River Tam (Firefly)

I adore River so much – so completely crazy, so completely kick-ass. Representing the Whoniverse, we have Donna, Rose and Sarah Jane in 4, 8, and 10. For the Whedonverse, there’s Willow, Faith and Kaylee in 9, 15 and 16. I love that Emma Peel makes the list at 11 (I must get The Avengers box set!), and Starbuck from Battlestar is in 13. I’d totally have put in Martha, as I've mentioned before I feel she is greatly overlooked ninety nine percent of the time.

That rounds off the list. You can still get involved in the whole thing – vote for The Ultimate Best SF or Fantasy Character Ever, consisting of the winners of each category, here. Be geeky, you know you want to.

Music: Help - The Beatles
Mood: Relaxed

The game is on

This won’t be anything new to those in the UK, but just recently I got my hands on the first two episodes of television show Sherlock. Created by Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss, it is a contemporary update of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes mysteries and stars Benedict Cumberbatch as Holmes and Martin Freeman as Watson.


It is a three part series produced by Hartwood Films for BBC Wales, co-produced with WGBH Boston for its Masterpiece anthology series (America’s longest running primetime drama series). It aired across three weeks in July and August, and was a critical smash. Happily, the BBC has commissioned a second series.

This show is the greatest thing to enter my life in the last year. It is brilliant. Fantastic. Wonderful. I don’t have enough adjectives! Everything about it is made of absolutely epic WIN. The stories are brilliantly adapted to a modern context –I loved, for example, how in A Study in Pink Holmes makes the call that an alcoholic person’s phone always has scratches around the charger connection, the same way he made the call with the scratches around a pocket watch in the original. It is subtle and masterfully executed, and the relationship between Holmes and Watson is nothing short of brilliant. It is funny, charming and just captivating television that had me jumping out of my skin with glee while I watched. I am enthralled.


I admit I was sceptical to start, if only because I just love the Jude Law/Robert Downey Jr Sherlock Holmes film so much (and there are things like that Asylum Holmes tale out there), but this is such an entirely different breed of Holmes story and it didn’t matter at all. I think it’s fair to say that I am a bit of an ACD fangirl, and that fangirl is so very, very pleased with Sherlock. The adaptation to modern context is done so cleverly and, while I am not a film student, I think it’s just shot so well. I particularly love what they’ve done with the wider shots of London, there’s something in them that just gives a subtle sense of dissonance.

The acting is so wonderful as well – I know I’m overusing adjectives, but it really is! Benedict Cumberbatch is pitch perfect as Holmes, completely captivating and beautifully aloof. I also love Martin Freeman’s Watson, perfectly capturing the sense of the character. They are so perfect and inhabit the characters so well, it’s really no wonder that the relationship comes across so brilliantly.

I’m not a psychopath, I’m a high functioning sociopath; do your research!

So yeah, I’m a fan. A big fan. I deeply thank the creators for putting this spark of brilliance into my life. Now if only there were more episodes...

Music: I've just seen a face - The Beatles
Mood: Content

Follow the Yellow Brick Road

This post is nothing but a random, non-related collection of oddities and links. It’s what the internet is for.

First off, let’s start with the geek solar system – courtesy of Lizzie. You can view it here. I particularly like ‘Moon?’ just outside the dotted lines that mark where poor Alderaan used to be. Clever things.

Kicking on ahead to Doctor Who, I present a collection of simple, but rather cool, fan posters:
There’s something to be said for their minimalist renderings. Also, River is brilliant.

This is funny because it’s true. True, I say! TV Tropes should carry a warning.


This is stunning -
From here. Captured by the Hubble Telescope, it’s a nebula in the constellation Taurus near the centre of the Milky Way’s galactic plane.

Side note: Ah technology, look how easy you’ve made this sort of thing. I remember when I was 7 I had a good ol’ fashioned scrapbook filled with postcards and clippings of planets and stars and the like. Astronomy was my first obsession. I guess, as Yoda would say, “All his life has he looked away... to the future, to the horizon. Never his mind on where he was. Hmm? What he was doing. Hmph. Adventure. Heh. Excitement. Heh. A Jedi craves not these things. You are reckless.” Except for, you know, the Jedi part.

On that note, check out this Magnetar, the most powerful magnetic object in the known universe.
Isn’t it cool? More info here.

In keeping with photography, cool “otherworldly” photographs can be found here. Earth – not as boring as some would have you believe.

If you’re looking for something to occupy your time, and you’re into this whole sci-fi and the meaning of genre thing, io9 have collected a bunch of stories that are challenging the traditional nature of sci-fi. Dubbed ‘SciFi Strange’, the stories push the boundaries of what is strictly scientific or realistic – you can find the whole thing here.

Here be 6 things from history everyone pictures incorrectly. The ancient statues thing is news to me I must admit, io9 also covered it – check it out, so many colours. Yeesh.

Staying on the geekery – slowed down theme tunes! You might have caught wind of this trend on the interwebz following some or other person slowing down a Bieber song 800%, so of course io9 went ahead and slowed down classic theme tunes too - from Spider-Man, Knight Rider, Doctor Who, Star Trek, Star Wars and more. The effect is quite eerie, as you can find out for yourself here. (Original post here)

Haha! Geeky wedding invites! Adorkable!

Ever wondered what a superhero university would look like? College Humour did.
I love the No Admittance Iron Man sign. Check out the others here.

My dad always gets me copies of Rolling Stone. I can only imagine what he will think when he comes across the latest one:

Oh, True Blood *shakes head*

What have we learnt from this post? I am an io9 junkie.

Music: Yellow submarine - The Beatles
Mood: Amused

Letting go of everything you know

A lot of news has been doing the rounds regarding the new season of Torchwood lately, none of it particularly awe-inspiring. Call me superficial, but it being on Starz is hardly promising, the channel is responsible for the infamous Spartacus: Blood and Sand. Combine this with all the talk and, well, let’s just say I’m not holding my breath.

For one thing, I loathe that it’s being pushed as a reboot. It still calls upon what has gone before, so technically it isn’t a reboot, but it’s like the previous fanbase is being completely disregarded. It’s very much a new show, for a new audience. Which kinda sorta sucks to be honest. I’m not saying you should pay fan service at all, but it’s a little harsh to completely blow them off when, without them, you’d never have made it as far as you had in the first place. But hey, c’est la guerre.

It seems like the trend of completely negating things that should have impacted significantly on a character’s psyche is set to continue. It also seems to channel the X-Files a whole lot, but maybe that’s just me. Blastr have an article on it here, and Gallifrey News Base also has a run down of the network character profiles here.

Here’s the thing though – on one hand you’ve got RTD saying he loves the Gwen/Rhys power couple (who doesn’t, Gwen’s character improves infinitely when she’s teamed with Rhys) and on the other the UST between Jack and Gwen seems set to continue:
Rhys is now ahead of the game, as it were. There are no secrets. They're a team. It's a really lovely thing to write in a storyline is a husband-and-wife team who love each other.

And yet...
The only thing that could call Jack Harkness back is his unstated love for Gwen Cooper.

She loves her man, she loves her child, she loves this mad old world, and maybe she loves Captain Jack Harkness just a little too much.

Gag. No I’m sorry, it’s just...yeah. It’s never worked for me. I like Rhys too much, he doesn’t deserve this shit. Also, I think it’s absolutely hilarious that this is the exact description that’s come out –
Gun in both hands, baby strapped to her chest, she'll run and fight and never give up.
I’ll direct your attention to the comments on this post, where the lovely Abbi called it pretty much word for word. I still think Rhys will probably die though. Unless of course the fact that we’re now expecting everyone to die means no one dies cause the inverse is now subverting audience expectations...convoluted and therefore apt. In the Gallifrey post there’s also mention of Torchwood being destroyed yadda yadda and the keys being held by the only two survivors – so, what exactly happened to Torchwood Two then? It was just a strange old man in Scotland, but still.

Oh yeah and then this –
Jack finds himself back at the center of events, fighting not just for his own life, but for everyone on Earth. But this time, are the stakes too high?

This time? Really? I kinda thought that after killing your own grandchild and destroying your daughter, the stakes sort of don’t matter anymore.

The thing that really, really irritates me though is this sort of thing that I’ve quoted before:

Davies says this story, which "had been ticking away in my mind for a long while," had not been planned as a Torchwood story at all. "And suddenly I thought, there's a popular show, there's a great story, let's put them together...It felt like it definitely could move forward and become new again."

"I think it's a brilliant idea, and when you hear it, it will make sense and you'll see how big it is. It could have filled 20 hours. It's a big 10-hour story."

Well, of course you think it’s a brilliant idea, you came up with it. I firmly believe that it is incredibly difficult to write existing characters into an existing story in a believable, engaging way as both have their own mythology that has nothing to do with the other. That’s why crossovers so very rarely work. He might pull it off better this time seeing as he only has three existing characters he needs to shoehorn in, but I really wish he’d stop long enough to consider existing mythology and work within the parameters of it. He never does, for all his painstaking attention to detail and crafting continuity throughout a season of his Who run, he really gives no thought to things outside his sphere of creation. As I’ve mentioned before, it’s just my humble opinion that when you’re working inside an existing franchise, you’re kind of obliged to. And then you have someone like Steven Moffat writing in time agents, vortex manipulators and weevils. Just saying.

Anyway, I don’t really want to even know about new developments anymore because I’m just so over it. Every new bit of info disappoints me. It sounds derivative, it sounds like it’s been done before (and by RTD himself, to top it all) and the new characters just don’t sound interesting. I’ll watch it, of course, but somehow I don’t think I’ll ever be able to care as much as when it was just a cheesy show about five semi-competent alien catchers zipping about in their “secret” SUV – not just another sci-fi show with American production values. I’ve got Fringe and Warehouse 13 for that, it’s not what I needed Torchwood for.

Plus it’s called The New World and that just reminds me of the second Pocahontas Disney movie. Yeah. I’m taking it seriously, promise. You can’t see it, but this is my seriouz face...

Music: Helter Skelter - The Beatles
Mood: Relaxed

Feminists, there’s one in every class

In my Theory & Writing class there is woman who is an ardent feminist. You know the kind I mean, the sort that finds misogyny in virtually everything. There is usually one to be found in every class and it is a never ending source of pain and frustration for me.

Now, first, understand that I am not anti-feminist or one who conforms to traditional gender roles. I was raised to believe in equality between the sexes, and I was very much taught that I could do whatever I wanted. I’ve never backed off of something because it was a ‘boy’ thing. Growing up, you could just have soon have found me building a tree house with my cousins or playing with my Barbie collection (I don’t think Barbie is anti-feminist either, ask me why! I don’t think there is enough discourse from a subjective point of view, the same way I don’t there is enough focus on discourse that suggests Twilight/Bella is not misogynistic/passive as many critics suggest. As Newton said, to every action there’s an equal and opposite reaction and imo it should be acknowledged.)

But the thing is, I am proud to be a woman. I’m quite happy with it. And I think I’m quite capable of wearing a pair of heels and still being an intelligent human being, going after what I want. Looking at my list of women I think are pretty awesome, you’ll notice most of them manage to be competent, strong women who can also be sexy when they want to be. There seems to be a trend within ardent feminism that you have to forgo your femininity, I suppose because femininity is a social construction, and that you can’t be taken seriously if you continue to conform – ie wearing heels and agonising over your eye shadow choice.

Here’s the thing though, men and women are different. Undeniably so. Nothing will change that. I guess I’m more an equalitarian, I think we can be different, that we should be different in fact, and still be entitled to equal opportunities. Who’s to say I can’t celebrate that difference and don a skirt, and still be taken seriously? I say I can. I also say feminism had its place in forging the path for me to be able to say these things, but that the moment has passed. Frankly, sometimes I think ardent feminists do more harm than good. They continually paint women as victims, and sometimes I just wish they’d let it go.

So if I sit in class as virtually every single thing we read is dubbed to have ‘misogynistic’ undertones and I roll my eyes, please excuse me. I think you see what you want to see, so you can get on your soapbox. Let it go, let’s move on. And let’s not think the only way we can earn respect and equality is by becoming more masculine, isn’t that just conforming to a different type?

Music: Revolution - The Beatles
Mood: Relaxed

The Uni Chornicles

I have of course been at uni for the past three weeks, which is partly why I have no time to blog. It’s been good so far, pretty full-on but I suppose I couldn’t expect anything less with three post-grad subjects.

Popular Fiction on Mondays is proving to be a blast. It makes a change to be in an environment where genre fiction is encouraged, rather than snubbed in favour of so called literary fiction. That divide is in fact the source of much discussion in terms of where genre lines are drawn, and how often literary fiction still fall within a specific genre – or how some of the best genre fiction are of literary quality. This week is the final one of our crime module, dealing with the notion of sub-genres and adventure. Thankfully I don’t have to read another book - it’s The Da Vinci Code, already done and dusted. I’m quite annoyed as I read Raymond Chandler’s Farewell, my lovely for Monday just past, and then I was just too sick to go to class. Waste of time. It’s all just writing assignments for the class, which is lovely.

Theory & Writing is...well what you expect of a theory class, I suppose. It’s a lot of reading. A lot. Last week I naively attempted to do it during my lunch hour but it amounted to forty pages, and just wasn’t going to happen. We also had to read Madame Bovary , a classic by all accounts and a must-read for stylistic purposes. I read the first few chapters, skimmed the ending, and wikipedia’d the rest. I will try to read the whole thing at some point, it’s not stupidly huge like, oh I don’t know, Anna Karenina and it seems to do some interesting things with point of view, but I just don’t have the patience for 19th century fiction right now. For this class we sadly have to do a presentation/essay (but which I mean you present your essay but the presentation isn’t graded). I so desperately wanted the popular culture week but someone else wanted it too – I agreed to a coin toss but the girl doing it totally fucked it up. She dropped the coin, picked it up, dropped it on the table again, and then revealed it on her hand with a flourish – as you do. I would have called for another toss, but as I’d lost, it would just have looked like I was a bad loser. Huff. I should have called for a round of rock-papers-scissors-lizard-spock. So instead I have the following week – postmodernism. That thud you just heard is my head meeting the desk.

The past two weeks in that class has actually consisted of watching The Bicycle Thief (or Bicycle Thieves as the original translation goes), a much-loved, award winning Italian film from 1948. During our first viewing I was fairly ambivalent to it, I wasn’t wowed but I had no ill-feelings either. The second class changed this however. For one thing, after a week in between, I found it hard to muster any care factor. Secondly, I was both sick and tired, and so the agonisingly slow pace was especially grating. The way Antonio runs! Why? Just why? If he actually did it properly he might possibly have caught up to someone. Then there are the subtitles that only appear for certain characters. I think I’d appreciate this film much more if I actually spoke Italian, I find that things said in passing often add depth to a film, even if by a random characters – why else would it be in the script? When Antonio, for example, goes to visit the psychic, I’d like to know what she’s saying to the other people she sees, just to add some metaphorical colour to the proceedings. Also – spoiler alert – he should have thought to steal a bike ages before he does. Then there’s all the pained standing around while he wrestles of the moral implications and yadda yadda yadda. He really lost me in that scene because frankly, if he is that incompetent in everything, he deserved to have his bike stolen. I know, I’m a cold hearted bitch, what can I say? I know I’m supposed to sympathise with this down on his luck character and his situation as he tries to provide for his family in the depression of post-war Italy, but I think for me personally there is only so much tragedy and misfortune I can watch before my mind rebels against it. There’s no variation, it’s just a steady decline, and after a while I can’t help but roll my eyes.

On the other hand, in Writing Seminar we watched All About Eve, a 1950s Oscar winner starring Bette Davis, which is a brilliant film I had no idea existed. It is witty, engaging, so cleverly done, and quite ahead of its time really. It does remind me a bit of Sunset Boulevard in theme but it doesn’t feel quite as long as that one did. It’s just dazzlingly sophist acted in its execution. I’ve just realised both films actually have the same score on IMDb, how funny.

All the filming watching has made it a pretty cruisy two weeks and now we’re heading into the madness and mayhem of presentations, essays and workshops. I actually have to present on All About Eve and Election for ‘Interpretations of a theme’ which should be quite fun. My workshop pieces for two classes are due next week, and then everything else is due after the break. I can’t believe it’s week four already though. Where does time go?
But yes...to the learning mobile!

Music: Hard days night - The Beatles
Mood: Relaxed

The Role Model Conundrum

This is a post I’ve been contemplating for aaaaages. It dates back to a few months ago when Kim Kardashian was in the country for...well whatever it is she does. She got so much press coverage and it slightly terrifies me that girls consider women like her and Paris Hilton role models, that they aspire to be like them.

That got me thinking about role models. It’s a concept I’ve always found slightly odd because I never really had one – at least I didn’t think I did. I never looked up to someone and thought when I grow up, I want to be like you. There are women however that I admire/d, of course there are – a lot of them are fictional, but still. So, I thought I might compile a list, and what are blogs for if not for precisely this silly reason?

The first woman I adored was neither real, nor human. She was in fact an anthropomorphised Dalmatian called Princess Dalma from my favourite television show as a child. In English the show is known as Dogtanian and the Three Muskehounds, an animated adaptation of Dumas’ novel about d’Artagnan and the Three Musketeers. I of course saw the show in Afrikaans and I loved it so much, you have no idea. My mother taped it for me and I’d just watch it over and over again – I have in fact transferred it over to DVD, and have every episode except 3, I think. A small number anyway.

Anywho, Dalma appears in the second season, The Return of Dogtanian, and is the cousin of Louis XIV King of France. Invited by Queen Anne, she travels up from Italy and the Musketeers are supposed to meet her at the border and escort her to Paris. On the way however, they are distracted by a masked stranger robbing a coach. A fight ensues but the masked stranger is too good for them and escapes - leaving only a black rose as a calling card. Disheartened and pressed for time, they have to let it go and meet Princess Dalma.

What follows is a three or four episode arc (can’t quite remember) of this brazen thief robbing everyone, including the guests at a ball held in Princess Dalma’s honour, and Cardinal Richelieu – the Musketeers come up with a cunning plan to catch the stranger but it intersects with the major story arc of the whole season that involves the King’s evil twin (based on Dumas’ The Man In The Iron Mask) and anyway, long story short, the thief is ‘rescued’ by the evil twin who wants to form an alliance. The thief however refuses and escapes, and this time joins up with the musketeers to fight off the evil twin’s men. In the end, the masked thief promises to forsake criminal activity in France as thanks for being rescued and agrees to be unmasked...dun dun dun
Black Rose Bandit Princess Dalma

Yep, the thief that’s kicked everyone’s ass for 90% of the episode arc is one and the same as the King’s delicate cousin, Princess Dalma. Blew my mind, it did. And sure, it’s about as obvious as Clark Kent being Superman, but I was 4 at the time and it’s a kids show, give me a break. She’s clever, funny, skilled, and totally charming. She rocked my world. I got a sword and a cape shortly thereafter, and have had an obsession with black roses ever since.

I’ve gotten all giddy thinking about this show actually. I just adore it so much, to this day even. Some parts of childhood will never lose their magic. It’s actually even more hilarious these days because the Afrikaans insults they constantly throw about just cause all sorts of ridiculousness for days in my house if it’s mentioned.

That’s where it started, and if I had to draw up a short list of chicks I think rock, this is what it would be:

> Belle – Beauty & the Beast

Following on Princess Dalma was Belle, the girl who never quite fitted in, lived vicariously through her books and dreamt of adventure. Instead of sitting around waiting for stuff to happen, like Cinderella, Belle goes out and gets right into things. She’s impulsive, will speak her mind, and not afraid to flaunt convention. She isn’t superficial or selfish – hell, the one thing she always craved is freedom and adventure, yet to save her father she gives that all up in an instant. It will come as no surprise that she is my favourite Disney Princess.

Who needs friends when you have books?

Gaston: How can you read this? There's no pictures!
Belle: Well, some people use their imagination.

> Max – Dark Angel

Max Guevara (aka X5-452 and she’s got a barcode on the back of her neck to prove it) was the protagonist of the television show Dark Angel, possibly my first real immersion in a sci-fi based universe, and steampunk sensibility. Played by a then relatively unknown Jessica Alba, Max is a genetically enhanced super soldier who escaped a covert military facility known as ‘Manticore’ as a child. She spends her time trying to live a normal life as a bike courier in a post-apocalyptic Seattle, and trying to find the eleven others who also escaped the facility, while avoiding re-capture by the government. She becomes involved with the cyber-journalist Logan Cale after she robs his apartment, and the pair then join forces – she helps him to fight corruption in this bleak world, and in turn he helps her track down her family. This show was canned after two seasons, and the second was pretty terrible I suppose, but I love Max. She’s sassy, daring, and ready to take on anyone – she’s was the coolest nineteen year old on television in my mind, and she had a nice bike.

It's not just a bike, it's an extention of my soul Stealthy Max is not so subtle

“Girls kick ass, says so on a t-shirt.”

> Abby Sciuto – NCIS

Here’s the thing, Abby Sciuto is cooler, cuter and cleverer than you. Abby (short for Abigail, but only Ducky is allowed to call her that) is a forensic specialist at NCIS (Naval Criminal Investigation Service), the institute from which the show takes its name. From the same fictional world as JAG, NCIS is essentially a crime show about, well, naval crimes. Abby I feel is best described by Special Agent Tony DiNozzo, “a paradox wrapped in an oxymoron smothered in contradictions in terms. Sleeps in a coffin. Really, the happiest goth you'll ever meet.” Sums it all up really. She’s bouncy, completely over- enthusiastic, is addicted to a caffeine-based drink called Caff-Pow, never goes outside without her parasol, listens to death metal while she works, has the best repartee with Gibbs and is nothing short of brilliant at her work. She is played by Pauley Perrette, who actually has a degree in criminal science herself and is an all round amazingly accomplished person. Abby is the most adorable person on television at any one time, but don’t let the happy exterior fool you – people have tried to mess with her before and they’ve all come off second best.

I'm one of the only people who can kill you and not leave any forensic evidence

”Good news and bad news Gibbs. Good news is I'm still cute. Bad news, the bomb squad got a little trigger happy."

> Ziva David – NCIS

Speaking of NCIS, I am forever thankful Sasha Alexander decided to leave the show, necessitating the killing off of her character Caitlin Todd and paving the way for Ziva David, played by Cote de Pablo. Ziva is an Israeli Mossad agent assigned as NCIS liaison after a Mossad agent goes rogue and assassinates Cate. That agent turns out to be Ziva’s brother, who she has to kill herself in order to save Gibbs’ life. Ziva is a product of her environment, raised in tumultuous circumstances in Israel with her father being the director of Mossad, while her younger sister was killed in a Hamas suicide bombing when she was 16. During her time at Mossad, Ziva was part of a special unit that specialised in assassinations, paramilitary operations, sabotage, and psychological warfare. She is a competent soldier, always in control, completely calm and aloof, drives like a lunatic, isn’t intimidated by authority, and is generally not one to be trifled with. She has an air of confidence about her, but as the seasons go on, she reveals vulnerability and she’s torn between her past and the life she’s found at NCIS. Her misuse and misunderstandings of pop culture and slang as she settles into American life is a great source of humour for most of the show so far. I’ve always admired Ziva for her skill and her ability to be calm and controlled, and her ability to get under Tony’s skin, but I totally came onboard with her during an episode where she strong-arms a red-neck sheriff for slandering Islam to a Muslim suspect in hospital. She’s amazing – and she can kill you in eighteen ways with a paperclip.

American idioms drive me up the hall!

Ziva: When you insult his religion, you insult mine and your own. Tell him you're sorry.
Deputy Tyler Barret: [quietly] Sorry.
Ziva: I don't think he heard you.
Deputy Tyler Barret: I'm sorry!
Masoud Tariq: Apology accepted.

McGee: You know that's how Houdini died.
Tony: Ziva, did you kill Houdini?
Ziva: It is possible. I do not remember all their names.

Cool, calm, collected

Abby: Wanna talk knives?
Ziva: Always

Side note: This show is actually very good, you know. The characters are brilliantly rounded and the team interaction, between every single one of them, is utterly believable and engaging.

> Veronica Mars – Veronica Mars

As a devourer of Nancy Drew books as a girl, I was destined to fall head over heels for Veronica Mars, a show that’s been described by Stephen King as Nancy Drew meets Phillip Marlowe. With its incredible noir sensibility, the show follows Veronica Mars as she progresses from High School to College while moonlighting as a private investigator, The first season is concerned with discovering the truth behind her best friend Lilly Kane’s murder, an event that caused her own life to fall apart. Her father, Keith the former county sheriff, loses his job over the incident and he sets up his own private detective business where Veronica, alienated from her old friends, picks up tips of the trade if you will. Veronica, played by Kristen Bell, is resourceful, sharp, snarky, and embodies a true outsider-and-don’t-give-a-fuck attitude. Veronica is stead-fast and committed to her cause, no amount of personal drama will slow her down. Sometimes she jumps to conclusions, and she can be single-minded if she thinks she has the answer, but that’s what makes her human. At the end of the day, everything Veronica does, she does with attitude and skill.

Veronica Mars, marshmallow

Veronica: Did you hear something last night?
Keith: What kind of something?
Veronica: Like a loud thump from upstairs.
Keith: I don't know. But you know me, I can sleep through an earthquake. Why?
Veronica: I don't know. It sounded like a falling body. It really freaked me out.
Keith: A falling body?
Veronica: Yes, a falling body.
Keith: Would you describe the sound as "Hitchcockian"?
Veronica: I'm glad you're able to entertain yourself.
Keith: Oh, sweetie, don't sell yourself short. I find you completely entertaining.

> Martha Jones – Doctor Who

Look, I’ve ummed and aaahed and given it some thought, but the more I think about it, the more I think Martha is my favourite companion. I know this is not the popular or fashionable call, but I don’t care. I think Martha gets a rough deal in the fandom, barely anyone seems to like her – frankly I think it’s just the Rose lovers harbouring resentment, which is cool, I get resentment, but I’m setting up camp with Team Martha for a number of reasons. For one thing, the Doctor is a real jerk ninety percent of the time in Season 3 – time and time again; it’s up to her to make her own way while Mister Time Lord keeps her dangling on a string. Hell for the first few episodes, he keeps saying he’s taking her home. Martha is in love with him (of course she is, it’s only logical) but I never found her pining to be annoying – Ten was doing just as much pining over Rose really, when you think about it. Considering this, Martha is by far the strongest companion, both emotionally and physically. She had to be. She had to constantly handle things without the Doctor – in Family of Blood it’s on all on her to protect him, in Blink she’s the one who has to get a job while they’re stuck, and then she has to wander the earth for a year in order to save the world. Can you say raw deal? Her emotions never compromised her ability to do what was needed of her, and she never asked for anything from the Doctor. Martha, as a trainee doctor, is intelligent, compassionate and has the patience of a saint. There’s no way she would have been able to put up with the crap above if not for these qualities. She has her insecurities and her failures of course, it’s to be expected, but to me her sensibility, judgement, determination, humour and intelligence wins out. She has such a good-natured spirit and she means well, and in the end she’s has the strength and common sense to walk away when she knows it’s necessary. Martha didn’t need the Doctor anymore, and in fact, through that entire season, the Doctor needed her more than she ever needed him. She never stops helping him though, essentially doing what he does just on earth and fighting the good fight. In the end, she isn’t even bitter or resentful about any of it, she is genuinely happy when the Doctor finds Rose again. It was all going so brilliantly until they had her end up with Mickey. Blargh, damn idiots. Martha is so much better than that (What’s worse according to the guys at the TW panel, it was all done as a last ‘Smith & Jones’ joke. Sigh. Honestly.)

Not stepping on butterflies I'm Dr Martha Jones, who the hell are you?

Martha: What’s that?
The Doctor: Sonic screwdriver.
Martha: What else have you got – laser spanner?
The Doctor: I did, but it was stolen by Emmeline Pankhurst. Cheeky woman.

The Doctor: Just think. When you get back, you could tell everyone that you've seen Shakespeare.
Martha: Yeah! And then I could get sectioned!

The Doctor: Martha Jones, you saved the world.
Martha: Yes I did. I spent a lot of time with you thinking I was second best, but you know what? I am good.

Honourable mentions go out to Emma Peel from The Avengers, Kat Stratford from 10 Things I Hate About You, Starbuck from Battlestar Galactica, Buffy, Sydney Bristow from Alias, and Amy Pond of Doctor Who for being the quirky thing she is.

These are all fictional women, because I think it’s much easier to latch onto these representations that real people – I can know characters completely, I can’t know famous people. Still, there are other options out there besides Kim Kardashian and the Paris posse – Megan Gale, for example, who would have to be the latest addition to my list of fabulous women. Just take a look beyond tabloid media, and they’re there, being awesome.

While I've never considered myself to have a role model, I think there’s something to be said for the fact that the first ever character I adored to bits was a kick-ass princess thief, and that I’ve always been drawn to strong, empowered women who could look after themselves, and the woman I consider myself to be. Of course this is in no small part also due to my mother who raised me to value those very things. I know I wouldn’t be the person I am if it wasn’t for her, and I tell her that regularly. My mum rocks, and so do the women on my list.

Music: Hey Jude - The Beatles
Mood: Relaxed

Goblin vampires with kinks

About two weeks ago I finally finished a novel I’ve had in my possession for a while. It was, of course, borrowed from Miss R’s wonderful library and I was actually with her when it was originally purchased (good ol' Pitt street Borders, you are missed). For me, it was one of those cases of superficiality – you know what I mean, one of those “hey this cover looks kinda cool, get that”. That was just me though, R had actually heard of it before and was interested before my extremely helpful contribution.

The novel in question here is Thirteen Bullets by David Wellington (please note the cover R’s copy is completely different to that.) It’s the first in a supernatural series following State Trooper Laura Caxton. Interestingly enough, it was originally posted in serial form on Wellington’s blog before being picked up for publication by Three Rivers Press, an imprint of Random House.

Now, this is not a review. I’m not blogging about it because I want to put forth the books qualities. I’m blogging about it simply because I have no idea what to do with it. The premise is simply that Laura Caxton, small town State Trooper, discovers a ‘half dead’ (ie not fully turned vampire) while doing RBTs so bringing vampire expert Special Deputy Arkeley to town. Everyone assumed vampires to be extinct, but one still remains in the US in a medical facility under strict guard. This vampire, Malvern, is ancient and emancipated and Arkeley really wants her dead, but a court had ruled her to be “alive” and therefore anyone who harmed her would be up for murder. So follows a convoluted story involving murderous vampires and hordes of half-deads, and Arkeley and Caxton as the only ones who can stop the onslaught.
Right, firstly, I really wished I hadn’t read this because I was writing a vampire short story where my vampires slowly decomposed the older they got – exactly what happens in this novel. Foiled! Secondly, there is something about it that really doesn’t sit well with me. It’s quite all-out in its horror elements, so it has the uncanny vibe you’d expect from it, but that’s not what I mean.

I think it comes down to Laura Caxton’s character. As the protagonist she is meant to be our ‘in’ into this world and, as she is new to the supernatural world and is educated so to speak by Arkeley, we are initiated into the mythology of the novel right along with her. The thing is thought, her character is rather one-dimensional which greatly impacts on my ability to engage with her or the challenges she faces. I feel like Wellington created this female protagonist without any real thought to what a female protagonist would actually be like and instead just went for melodrama stereotypes. Cue the daddy issues, and the overwhelming whiff that a strong male influence would be all to sort her out.

That might not have given me such an apprehensive view of things, if not for the fact that Caxton also happens to be a lesbian, and is in a committed relationship with her partner Deana. There are so many possibilities for a move like that to push a novel into new territory, to explore something different through merely presenting a protagonist who is not ‘conventional.’ Sadly, this is not explored. It’s superficial and clumsily handled, and in the end when it turns out that one vampire had taken a particular shine to Caxton because he was turned on by the girl-on-girl element, I couldn’t help but feel that it was similarly Wellington’s entire motivation for making Caxton gay. Deana’s character is also not given any depth or agency really, and the whole thing feels farcical at best.

It wouldn’t bother me if not for the stabs at depth taken at times where Caxton is contemplating the nature of their relationship (she also of course thinks about cheating on Deana, I’m sure that’s a trope all in its own really) – moments that all seem to come after Deana is severely injured and Caxton can’t see her because she isn’t family, or Deana’s family’s disapproval and so on. Stuff that seem to be only thrown in there because of the idea that, when dealing with this sort of thing, that’s just what one does.

Granted I’ve never done queer studies, but I’ve certainly had a lot of exposure to it thanks to my TW fandom, and I just can’t help but feel that there’s no sincerity, no depth – just superficial gloss. It’s not that I want it to be about the relationship, it is after all a horror novel, and that’s partly the problem. For most of the novel, I just thought it was really unnecessary to weave in all this relationship nonsense anyway, but the final plot twist kind of hinges on it and I think essentially that is why it should carry more depth so I can buy into that final twist, so I can actually feel something about it. It’s like these issues are shoe-horned in there to provide a convenient plot twist – it’s only there when it needs to be, and the rest of the time it’s forgotten. Surely if something is an issue, that’s it, it’s an issue. There’s just no consistency.

I don’t know. I just think if you’re going to make your protagonist’s sexuality and relationship central, you can at least put in some effort to make it believable. I don’t want to feel like I’m just witnessing something someone else thinks is hot. The whole thing just smacks of melodrama, and while a gay female protagonist in the horror world is both a risk in appealing to the market and a good ploy to differentiate your character from the masses, I feel Wellington did it meekly and, by pandering to borderline stereotypical representations, missed the opportunity to actually have an interesting take on an old tale.

Music: Here comes the sun - The Beatles
Mood: Relaxed

Monday, August 9, 2010

Leave all your love and longing behind

Well, I have survived a busy weekend and I kind of never want to leave the house again. I have no words to express how tired I am. No words.

Things kicked off on Friday night with Florence + The Machine at the Enmore Theatre with Lizzie. It was so, so fabulous. It's no wonder everyone is a little in love with Florence Welch, she's utterly captivating. Her hair definitely wins the Best Support award. I was very impressed with the light show as well, beautifully done and perfectly balanced. I loved the entire performance, it was just stunning overall though I was then doomed to spend the rest of the weekend unable to get 'Cosmic Love' out of my head. Worse things have happened.

I didn't love the drive home afterwards as much and I got stuck in King Street for half an hour just trying to get out of Newtown. I finally managed to get home just after midnight and didn't get nearly enough sleep for the madness of Saturday. I packed the day waaaaay too full. I was up at 6.30 on Saturday and met R in Newtown for a birthday breakfast. Em and I then spent some time in the QVB before I had to dash down to the IMAX where I watched Inception again with a uni friend. It's still brilliant and Joseph Gordon-Levitt still needs to be kidnapped. I'm disappointed it wasn't out when I was doing Critical Writing because I've realised it has unlimited essay potential. There's just so much you can tap into.

After coffee and a chat, I had to rush back home to meet Lizzie before heading back into the city again for the Neil Gaiman reading at the Opera House. I can't even begin to express how phenomenal this was. Neil read his short story The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains, available in the volume Stories which he edited, for what he concedes is probably the first and last time. The ninety minute reading was scored by a string quartet and featured a projection of 35 illustrations by Eddie Campbell. It was a completely immersing experience, and I am so glad I got to witness it. It has to be said that Neil has such a fantastic voice, I wish I could just have him around to narrate every day life. Sadly, the logistics of doing a signing at the Opera House was just too great but Neil had signed 2000 books (one for each member of the sold-out crowd) that could be purchased. After some major line!fail from the people who ran the operation, Lizzie and I managed to secure signed copies of our liking - Neverwhere and Preludes & Nocturnes in my case. No idea when I'll get around to reading them, but hey. I think it's fair to say some hero-worship may be developing on my part.

Up again at 8 the next morning, far too early for my sleep-deprived liking, I had a couple of hours to attempt getting through my uni readings before another trek into the city was called for at 2 - this time for the 'Evolution of an Idea' panel at the Opera House Studio featuring Neil, Eddie Campbell and Shaun Tan. I might point out that the entire weekend is part of the inaugural Graphic festival organised by the Opera House hosted to celebrate visual story-telling. Kevin Smith is also in attendance, he introduced Neil on Saturday and I believe there are still tickets to his show available for this evening. Any old who, the panel was mostly concerned with how ideas develop and evolve during the creation and collaboration process, and there were some interesting points raised. The entire thing was recorded, and will probably be available online soon-ish for any interested parties.

I returned back home around 5 and struggled on with the uni work - with dubious success I might add. The only thing I want to do today is sleep. I'm feeling pretty crappy and this combined with the tiredness has put me in a less-than-friendly mood. I'm also freezing, and have yet to remove my scarf or jacket since getting in this morning. This combined with the sore throat and sniffles suggests that I may possibly have picked up some bug along the way. Busy as I am, this does not bode well.

I've got so much work to get through this week, I'm not quite sure how I'm going to manage. Then there's uni work as well, dear lord. I don't even have a full exercise for tonight's class - errr yeah. I just look forward to re-uniting with my bed at some point before 11 tonight.

Think happy thoughts people, think happy thoughts.

Music: Dog days are over - Florence + The Machine
Mood: Annoyed

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Truth, this is.

So true

Music: Rebel, rebel - David Bowie
Mood: Exhausted

Kill me

From Gallifrey News Base as reported by The Hollywood Reporter:

The new story will follow a CIA agent (Rex) and analyst (Ester) who tackle an alien-related global issue. Torchwood, having been destroyed and disbanded, is "like a legend now ... it's like something that's ceased to exist and is now spoken of only in whispers." Soon, Rex and Ester are on the run and are seeking out the help of Captain Jack and Gwen.

"The two teams coming together is a big part of the story -- are they friends or enemies? There's a lot of sparks and excitement."

"We definitely have a really big story to tell," added executive producer Julie Gardner. "It's absolutely rebooted to welcome in a new audience." ....

The ten episodes will be very fast paced, telling a self-contained story with the miniseries "Children of Earth" being used as a template.

Being on Starz, the show could potentially take advantage of looser standards for nudity and violence.

"I've always had loose standards and practices," Davies said. "If the story demands intimacy or savagery, we will go there absolutely ... [but] there's nothing better than a great big global thriller that stops for a sex scene -- it's probably hard to make that happen in a thriller."
Also, USA today:

The team has left Wales for America, as creator Russell T. Davies has left Britain for Los Angeles. The case will tie the two remaining Torchwood members (Jack and Eve Myles's Gwen) to the CIA, and will expand into a world-wide threat. And yet, says Davies, it "will be faithful" to the BBC original.

Davies says this story, which "had been ticking away in my mind for a long while," had not been planned as a Torchwood story at all. "And suddenly I thought, there's a popular show, there's a great story, let's put them together...It felt like it definitely could move forward and become new again."

Though it will be newer and bigger, the tone won't change, says Davies. Barrowman's Jack will still be TV's only bi-sexual hero, character will still be stressed, and humor will still play a large part in the show's make-up.

"I sit there in the editing room saying 'Don't cut that joke! Cut the plot, cut the murder, cut the story, but don't cut the joke.'...It will always be a cheeky show."

I see the word reboot, I see all the quotes, and I lose all faith.

Music: Scratching nails against wooden floorboards
Mood: Sleepy