Author Archives: Heather Cleary

HC Bingo Card

AN: transferred from livejournal – unfortunately it did not help me write more.

Maybe participating in this challenge will help me write more.

I’m very excited about getting the unwanted transformation square because it would have become my Wild Card – I’ve had two plot bunnies bouncing in my brain that are quite relevant.

And … tentacles! So many possibilities. (On a related note, I had the letters for HENTAI in Words With Friends game earlier today.)

Least excited – waterboarding, which I almost veto’d. Thems the breaks. I don’t care. I got unwanted transformation.


If You Can’t Handle the Review, Disengage

There is a new brou-ha-ha in the author blogging world. As often happens, I found out about it on John Scalzi’s Whatever blog. Basically there are accusations of a “YA Mafia” who have the power to prevent authors they don’t like from being published. Both Scalzi and Holly Black have written funny and scathing rebuttals. Basically, authors are too lazy to sabotage other people’s work. Even if they did, the agents and publishers would ignore those types of requests.

Alas, the publishing industry does not, and cannot, protect (online) reviewers from insecure authors.

I’ve seen authors post comments on negative goodreads reviews (and I don’t think I’ve ever seen this go well).
comment by phoebenorth

No Trolls Allowed by hawanjaWORD. A couple years of ago I defended a friend’s bad review on Goodreads. The author in question is very successful and writes books, screenplays, and comic books. Yet bad reviews seemed to shatter his world. I realized that the author had to be extremely insecure. And he had to have the last comment despite claiming that we were the ones who kept the thread alive.

I decided to boycott his work since he is a troll. Unlike other authors I have consciously stopped reading (for various reasons), it has been a bit difficult to avoid giving him any of my money.

Alas, other authors are also trolls, or displaying troll-ish behavior. On this LiveJournal thread, an author* who received a bad review keeps prolonging the negative discussions despite claiming the opposite:

I’m out — I hate internet debate with a fiery passion.

I love Internet debate. I do not love Internet flame wars. There is a difference.

The former can be thoughtful, polite, and enlightening; the latter is like watching talking heads scream at other on a new show. I prefer to not wear asbsetos gloves while reading about books on my laptop.

Reviewers: If an author metamorphoses into a troll on your site, disengage. Stop responding. Whatever you do or say will piss them off, so do nothing. Don’t spend more of your valuable time stoking their neuroses.

Authors: If you are an insecure writer who is not very good at taking criticism (and honestly, I count myself in that camp), disengage. Don’t read the reviews. Don’t respond by attacking or threatening the reviewers. Don’t try to prove your superiority by getting in the last word. Inciting a flame war with people who took the time to write a review of your work is not worth it. You’ll get the responses “ Dude, you’re kind of a prick.”and “Troll!” People following the “discussion”  may stop buying your work. Worse, they may encourage others to do so as well.

Image: No Trolls Allowed by Hawanja on Deviant Art

* I have not read this author’s work, nor had any plans to.  I don’t care if you buy her books or if you enjoyed them.

Sex and the City 2: Great Expectations

Yes, I’m asking that you take a second look at Sex and the City 2 during its first week of release. Why? Because most of the reviews out there say that it’s a terrible movie about overconsumption. Well, yes. It is ubermaterialistic and filled with many stereotypical orientalist fantasy elements. But SATC2 is a satire about how “liberated” we think our culture is.

The original television series advanced woman’s liberation. It celebrated the supposed sexual freedom of the modern woman, embodied by four different avatars: Carrie the neurotic girl, Charlotte the good girl, Samantha the bad girl, and Miranda the career girl. The show definitely did break down boundaries and made it okay for women from different generations to talk about sex. The avatars slowly changed into characters, into women making complicated and difficult decisions.

The first movie chronicled the rites turning Carrie from a single girl to a married woman. She finally achieved her supposed “happy ending.” The second movie attempts to answer the question – did Carrie really enjoy her happy ending? Of course not – at heart she’s still the avatar of the neurotic girl. Dramatically tackling those issues would be a downer of a film, not what the target audience wants or expects from the franchise. So the filmmakers chose another time-honored tradition to explore these issues: the satire.

Everything in this movie – the fashions, the settings, the choices, the desires – has been exaggerated. The characters have been flattened back into stereotypes, into girls. It definitely fetishes the superficial; but the assumptions underlying these appearances are overtly and covertly challenged throughout.

SPOILER WARNING – I give away plot points below, but really this movie is anything but plot-driven. If you can’t figure out what happens when Samantha cavorts in a sexually repressed society, well, just think about it a little bit longer.

The TV series began in the decadence of the 1990s and carefully navigated the post-9/11 world. The second movie begins with flashbacks to the 1980s – another celebrated era of overconsumption. The first set piece is the over-the-top-of-the-Empire-State-Building wedding of Stanford and Anthony, Carrie and Charlotte’s respective Best Gay Friends. Liza Minelli officiates, much to the amazement of the wedding guests and the Sex and the City Men’s Choir who were in attendance. One of the best sequences in the movie is Liza singing and dancing All the Single Ladies.

But all is not well at this gay wedding. A fan gushes at Carrie and Big until she finds out that her dream model couple are not planning on having children. They are knowingly going against their society’s traditions. Though they can articulate this decision and were prepared to accept some societal disapproval, Carrie and Big did not anticipate the coldness of the other couple’s reaction.  The main characters’ expectations are also challenged. When Anthony relates that Stanford will allow him to cheat during their marriage, though, the girls become uncomfortable. Faithfulness in marriage is a tradition that the foursome did not expect to be challenged. To them, two men getting married is normal. Sanctioned cheating, however, is not.*

The last part of the movie takes place in a fantastical version of Abu Dhabi.** The United Arab Emirates has usurped Manhattan to become the epitome of decadence. SATC2 walks a fine line between two different Western myths of the Middle East. The “traditional” UAE is Muslim, sexually conservative, restricts women, and run by men. The sheik who treats the foursome to the junket in Abu Dhabi wants to hire Samantha to do PR for “the NEW Middle East.” Ostensibly he wants to prove to the world that his hotel and the UAE have become liberated, comfortable for Westerners. How does he do that? By catering to Western tourists’ Oriental fantasies. In the luxury Jewel Suite, each woman has a personal butler, complete with turbans. The women ride camels, drink tea in a tent in the middle of the desert, and go shopping for spices and shoes at the local souk.

Yet signs of the “OLD Middle East” abound. At least one of the butlers is actually Indian. His character is the nicest man the foursome meet in Abu Dhabi, and he’s not even a native. In fact, he seems to be an indentured servant, slightly better off than a slave since he can visit his wife every 3 months. In a restaurant, the girls stare at a table of women in burkhas and hajibs. None of them asks why these modern women eating french fries and talking on cell phones are still veiled while eating at a restaurant in a hotel that caters to Westerners. By virtue of their clothes, these women are deemed “other,” though Carrie does admire a bedazzled robe. Fashion is always on the surface.

Throughout the Abu Dhabi section, Miranda chastises Samantha for showing too much skin. Samantha (un)consciously pushes the boundaries of the “NEW Middle East.” For all of the “I Am Woman” karaoke and sisterhood pep talks, none of the foursome realize that they have only been viewing the culture solely through the male gaze. Men have arranged the junkets and their outings; most of the waitstaff  they encounter are men.*** It is not until the end of the film that the girls make any connection with the female side of the “NEW Middle East.” Women wearing black robes invite them into a store to avoid a brewing lynch mob of men. These “others” have created a female-only space where they have a book club and wear couture under the burkas. Fashion is no longer a superficial signifier of status; it is rebellion. Suddenly the women in the so-called repressed society (Abu Dhabi) have much in common with the women in the so-called liberated society (Manhattan.)

All the problems that the girls (and the BGFs) experience are variations of expectations crashing against traditions. By having a large part of the movie take place outside the US in a foreign country it highlights the restrictive traditions and expectations of our own culture. Women should get married, have babies, love the babies, and not have careers.

Carrie navigates personal spaces and the choice of not having children in a marriage. Stanford and Anthony negotiate a relationship where they are faithful to each other only in the 5 states that recognize gay marriage. Samantha is fighting aging, trying to keep her body young through hormones, creams, and dresses that Miley Cyrus would wear. Charlotte tries to come to terms with the fact that she is not the perfect mother who loves her children all of the time. In fact, Miranda helps her realize that that  this idea of a “perfect mother” is a mirage. Worst of all (or most relevant to my life), Miranda bumps up against male chauvinism in her law firm.

Each character confronts an expectation of society, a tradition, and makes changes in her (or his) life to vanquish it. Miranda changes law firms and becomes happy at work. Big and Carrie keep an extra apartment for them and their friends to temporarily escape from their overwhelming lives. But most of the changes are mental, accepting oneself while no longer worrying so much what “society” thinks of you. This theme is explicitly spelled out in the preamble to Anthony’s wedding vows: Stanford is the only man to accept him for who he really is. Too bad it takes the rest of the 2.5 hour movie for the girls to figure it out for themselves.

And if you don’t agree with my analysis, please read this review of SATC2 as science fiction story of “four damned immortals, condemned to live in a couture-drunk fugue state by a extradimensional puppet master (who may or may not be New York City itself).” I so love multiple interpretations!

Lastly, I wrote this review while watching a 1998 adaption of Vanity Fair, a satirical novel by William Makepeace Thackeray that lampoons his contemporary decadent and superficial society, London in the 1810s. Becky Sharp is a “heartless mother” and a “faithless wife” who uses her sexuality and intellect to rise way above her station. Both of these unlikeable heroines challenge their society’s traditions; we must have improved some since Becky Sharp is punished while Carrie Bradshaw is celebrated.****

* Unsanctioned cheating is normal, or at least not unexpected. In the first movie, Miranda’s husband had cheated on her.

** I’ve wanted to go to Abu Dhabi since I was a child. Some friends across the alley lived there for two years. They actually filmd SATC2 in Morocco; I want to go there too.

*** Exception that may prove the rule: the flight attendants on the airplanes were all female.

**** Weak ending, I know. Means I need another cosmo, stat!

Fan Fic Kerfuffle

As some of you may have heard, there was a recent eruption of authors vs. fans on the interwebs. Diana Gabaldon wrote about how she really felt about fan fic. Fan fic writers responded, most somewhat unpleasantly and others downright troll-ish.  Other authors joined in on both sides. Gabaldon wrote a measured response, and another, and then poof! took down the posts and comments.

For a good recap, check out Fan Wank’s roundup.

I’m neither a writer nor a regular reader of fan fic. I’ve never read her works, though a friend of mine had recommended the Outlander series to me just last month. I do deal with copyright and fair use on a daily basis and often curse the estates of Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein who do not want anyone to appropriate their images even though those artists appropriated them from elsewhere.

And yet, I do want to respond in my little corner room on the interwebs. I know that no one will read this post, but I feel the need to shout into the universe.  Note that I will not be discussing copyrights, trademarks, IP law, or money. No, I want to talk about emotional and ownership.

Watch the writer poke the snake pit! The first post took great issue with the amount of sex in the fan fic, especially the slash fic. Tee hee. I admit that most fan fic I read is slash fic. Because it’s fun. And according to my friend as well as many commenters, her novels are full of graphic sex.

In her second post, Gabaldon said that she was shocked – shocked! – to find out that people wrote fan fic out of love. That pissed me off, partly because I believe that most fan fic writers do it because they love the story/characters/universe. Sometimes they love it so much, they come up with satisfying alternatives to lousy plotlines (yes JMS, I am talking about the last season of B5.) Really, who hasn’t played with the idea of recasting a character or having one writer take over the universe of another.

What spurred me to actually write this post, however, was reading the cached page of her third post:

Characters—good characters, “real” characters—derive their reality from the person who created them. They _are_ the person who created them, refracted through the lens of that writer’s experience, imagination, love, fear, and craft. Another writer seeking to duplicate that character might equal—or conceivably surpass–the craft; they can’t touch the essence.

When you mess with my stuff, you’re not messing with my characters—you’re messing with _me_.

Wow, she really subscribes to the idea of the lone artist genius. What bullshit. Glad to know that so many collaborative writing projects, e.g. most television shows, and collaborative universes, e.g. the Star Wars books, are doomed to fail. Authors such as Michael Moorcock who are willing to share their characters must be hacks. If only one writer in the entire history of the world can get to the essence of a character, then who has done the perfect and definitive Faust. Or Queen Elizabeth I – surely no author can touch the essence of a real, live person historical person. Balderdash.

And then she goes on about how here characters are part of her. That can be a valuable way to interpret dreams, but she identifies so much with her characters that it seems quite narcissistic, enough to warrant therapy. And it raises the hackles of my inner literary critic.

Attention all writers, artists and creators. Sharing your art with other people is scary. As much as you try, you cannot absolutely control how another person will experience, feel, or interpret your work. In fact, they might find stuff there that you were not consciously or even subconsciously aware of. You may mightily disagree with your fans and how they reference your work. As the creator, know that your intentions and interpretations are privileged, but those of your readers, watchers, listeners are also valuable. And fan fic is a valid response. Get over yourself.

I know, you’ve put a lot of yourself into your work. Once you put your creation out into the world, though, let it find its way in the world. Don’t keep it in a walled garden where only people who agree with you may visit. The more people it comes into contact with it, the more it will mature, gain insight, become beloved. Relax and enjoy how your work moves people and moves through people. This process may spark new ideas and directions for your next work. Take a deep breath and keep on, keep on creatin’.

Reading Meme

Reading Meme!
These are the top 106 books most often marked as “unread” by LibraryThing’s users (as of today). As usual, bold what you have read, italicise what you started but couldn’t finish, and strike through what you couldn’t stand. The numbers after each one are the number of LT users who used the tag of that book.

(from [info]truepenny) via exceptinsects
Continue reading

Good Reviews of Bad Movies

Reading reviews (much less spoilers) affects the movie-going experience. When I was a teenager, I saw a comedy suggested by  a friend. All I knew about it is that it was a comedy. Hadn’t read a review, no ads or posters had made any impression. I really enjoyed this movie; it made me laugh and feel giddy and full of joy. It was Splash. Part of my enjoyment was realizing that I had no expectations for the film.

And yet I love reading movie reviews. For films that I am really excited about, I will attempt to avoid reading them until I’ve seen the movie. They seem to give away so much plot! (At least more plot than can be given away in the trailers, another way to ruin a movie. Arlington Road is a prime example.) After seeing Pulp Fiction, I read 3 different reviews that tried hard to not spill many of the plot twists. However, each of them spilled a different twist, each from a different section. Oops. And when there is a twist ending, they will tell the readers that it exists. Dear reviewers, please don’t. I’m going to spend the movie anticipating the ending. Though appropriate for mysteries, it can be annoying for comedies. Or I won’t even see the movie. After hearing the plot set-up of The Sixth Sense and finding out that there was a big twist at the end, I deduced that either Bruce Willis or the kid was a ghost.

NB: I am not totally against spoilers. In fact, here is a recent defense of spoilers. It makes some good points. Myself, I try to savor the mysteries of the unknown in order to restrain my inner uberfangirl tendencies.

Despite being disgruntled, I still read the reviews. My favorite type of review is when the piece is better than the actual film. Here are a few examples:

Michael Bay Finally Made An Art Movie by Charlie Jane Anders. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. 24 June 2009.

Since the days of Un Chien Andalou and The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, filmmakers have reached beyond meaning. But with this summer’s biggest, loudest movie, Michael Bay takes us all the way inside Caligari’s cabinet. And once you enter, you can never emerge again. I saw this movie two days ago, and I’m still living inside it. Things are exploding wherever I look, household appliances are trying to kill me, and bizarre racial stereotypes are shouting at me.

TV Apocalypse Now! by Heather Havrilesky. Impact. 18 June 2009.

I love apocalyptic television. From the awkward dialogue to the terrible CGI effects to the “Let’s fall in love/resolve our differences while the world ends” relationship scenarios, End Times TV makes me feel warm and nostalgic inside. Like a giant glazed doughnut for the soul, disaster TV allows us to savor the supreme stupidity of it all and feel grateful that planet Earth isn’t imploding or exploding or spinning straight into the sun.

Reading this review of an upcoming TV miniseries sparked this post. I had to seek out the review of Deep Rising.

Deep Rising, Boston Globe. 30 November 1999.

It’s basically a video game without the joystick. Having said that, this noisy, violent, dumb-as-a-stump actioner is more mindlessly fun than it has any right to be. “Deep Rising” is basically a C-grade monster movie, the kind that used to run endlessly on “Creature Features” a thousand Saturday nights ago. To the credit of writer-director Stephen Sommers, he never aspires to do anything grander than that.

This review brightened a dismal day. Almost made me want to go see the film that opening weekend. I did see this film eventually … on cable. Kevin J. O’Connor gets all the best lines.

I often confuse that will with the one below. Its review is only one paragraph (I swear I remember a longer one), but it also applies.

Ghost Ship,by Ty Burr. Boston Globe. 25 October 2002.

”Ghost Ship” is the kind of movie that you catch on HBO at 1 in the morning just before you go to bed and you’ve maybe had a beer or three and you end up watching the whole damn thing because the opening scene of stomach-churning carnage is certainly … novel.

I have been racking my brain trying to remember another review of a water-based thriller from the mid-1990s published in the Boston Globe. One that name checked Army of Darkness and possibly came out around the time of Ed Wood or Wes Craven’s New Nightmare. Again my memory may be playing tricks on me and I am conflating reading a good review or a bad movie while finding editorial mistakes. Though not in the same league as my hometown paper (The Examiner-Enterprise) which has misspelled words in headlines, The Globe did not always get its facts straight regarding movies.

And for something a little different, here is a pan about a good movie. This student really, really, really hated this Hal Hartley flick. In this case, his review (plus my love for the film The Unbelievable Truth) made me was to see this movie even more. (For the record, I liked the film.) Again, I remember this piece a bit differently. I thought that the reviewer explicitly stated why he spoils the main plot points in order to discourage anyone from seeing it.

“Simple Men” Is Proof of Incompetence in Filmmaking. By John Jacobs. The Tech (MIT student newspaper), 20 Nov. 1992.

I guess the director also recognizes talent where there isn’t any. The movie is replete with bad acting (or no acting). The plot isn’t interesting and the “musician” who does the soundtrack needs a few more years of practice before he will be qualified even to do beer commercials. I highly recommend this movie to anyone who isn’t aware that there are third rate artists in America, damn it. And something should be done about it.

UPDATE: When I returned to work this week, I found another gem in my email. Excerpt from the Action Library Media Service Newsletter by Charlene Birkholz about Pink Panther 2. (I’ve taken out the links since you have to subscribe to the service to get to them.)

Do not purchase this film. You will only encourage the people behind it to make more of them. It was directed by Harald Zwart, who brought you One Night at McCool’s and Agent Cody Banks (and no, there will be no links to these films).
As you might surmise, Zwart is no Blake Edwards. And Steve Martin is, alas, no Peter Sellers. If you want to understand why the Pink Panther films are beloved enough to drive one dismal continuation after another, these are the films you should seek out.
And if, for some reason, you are driven to see a Pink Panther film without Sellers, there is this collection: It contains four films made without the man who brought Clouseau to life, including one in which Alan Arkin takes on the role of the infamous French detective.

Welcome Beatrice

Asleep on the couch only 8 days after meeting each other.

I have finally decided on a name for the new kitten: Beatrice.

Luckily, she and LilyRocket are getting along very well; I even caught them snuggling on Sunday. They’d only met each other scarcely a week earlier! It helps that LR is still kitten-ish. Both cats share similar interests – they like to eat each other’s food and both love paper bags. I do hope that Beatrice will not acquire LilyRocket’s dangerous addiction to plastic.

LilyRocket’s favorite hiding place is inside a cardboard box. There are several empty boxes strewn about the house. One of her favorites is one filled with blue paper from the fluff and fold launrdromat. Recently, I transferred a stash of grocery bags into another box, and LilyRocket has found a new heaven. Maybe I’ll submit it to catinabox. I wonder if there is a site devoted to cats in wicker baskets, the traditional bed of Cleary cats.LilyRocket in paperbag-box heaven

New Kitty

Yes, I finally quenched my kitten lust and got a new cat. Haven’t decided on a name yet, so you can help me decide. Right now I’m calling her Moonshadow,. She’s about 6 weeks old with a white milky coat. I got her from the girlfriend of one of my students; yes, she’s very young, but the girlfriend is moving (and has assured me that that mama cat will be fixed this summer.)

Alas, my apartment is not set up well for separating cats. So far, LilyRocket has been fascinated to bored with the new cat. The only blood shed is mine from the sharp little kitten claws. I hope that they will become friends very quickly.

Here are some pictures from my iPhone; the quality isn’t that great.

Last Week in TV

Random musings about what I’ve been watching for the last few days. Oh, any many spoilers below.

The Amazing Race – NOOOOOO! Mel and Mike are gone. Part of me doesn’t want to watch it any more. They were smart, funny, and nice.

The MentalistArchie MacDonald is back! Still cute. Gosh, I’m a sucker for that voice. And he’s still cute. I hope this means that he will pick up some more acting gigs. I need more Archie in my life.

Speaking of The Mentalist, I have a casting suggestion. Please cast Jeffrey Pierce as Owain Yeomnan’s brother, for at least one episode if not as a recurring guest. Why? Well, Owen and Jeffrey played brothers in the show The Nine. Then Owain played the original Cromartie in the pilot for Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. Now Jeffrey is playing a different terminator on that show. Obviously, these two actors need to share some screentime together in The Mentalist, then guest star in another TV show at different times, and finally share more screentime together as brothers in yet another show. Let’s make this pattern happen.

Life on Mars v. Battlestar Galactica finales. This may be blasphemy, but I actually preferred the resolution of LOM (both versions) over BSG. I just couldn’t buy all the colonists and cylons dispersing themselves around the world in ones and twos. Humans (and cylons?) are herd animals. Wasn’t that abundantly clear in the first season of the show, if not the premise? We group together despite our differences in order to survive. After years of war and journeys, I can see them wanting to spread out and get space away from each other. But I think that would have only lasted for a few years. And we wants our toys. I don’t believe that everyone could give up their creature comfots. And the montage of dancing robots at the end seemed to reinforce the idea that technology is evil. I’ve read that the creators did not intend that interpretation, but that’s the nature of literature. You can’t control how your work will be interpreted, and you may add themes unconsciously and unknowingly.

LOM (US) also had a WTF twist. Sam and the other cops are really astronauts on their way to Mars, using virtual reality while in hibernation to keep from going insane or somesuch. The show actually brought life to Mars with a shot of a white loafer stepping onto red dust. (By the way – that dust was the worst f/x of the series.) Literal, but the twist made sense and explained the prevalence of robots. As much as I loved the British original, I didn’t like the suicide ending. Maybe it was the US editing, but I needed a few more scenes to fill out his post-coma life, especially one with Sam researching whether Gene, Annie, Ray, Chris, and the others actually existed. Something to make Sam account for the details of him comatose dream. And I needed him to explore another way to return to 1973 before killing himself. The decision happened too abruptly. That said, I loved LOM.

I didn’t watch the ER series finale. Yes, I was once a loyal viewer. Saw the pilot and loved it. Kept watching even when Carter went to Africa. I gave it up, though, a couple of years ago when they de-legged Ray and bad things happened to every other character in the season finale. The show seemed to hate its characters, and the events seemed so contrived. So I stopped watching. Adding Angela Bassett to the cast couldn’t even bring me back. I hope that the finale was satisfying, but I just didn’t want to take the chance that the show would screw over its characters once again. Or give them all happy endings.

Last but not least My Boys is back. PJ and Bobby are finally together! All is right in the world.

What is “Hello World”

“Hello world.”

Reportedly first used at Bell Laboratories, this phrase has become the geek equivalent of Lorem ipsum for graphic designers. Need to test that a program that outputs text? Chances are the placeholder text used will be Hello world. Check out this Wikipedia entry for more information.

When you first create a blog on WordPress, a new post called “Hello World” is automatically created. It also generates one comment. You do not have to keep this post or comment; feel free to re-use or delete them.