February 21st, 2017
I finally got around to reading Lumberjanes
by Noelle Stevenson and Grace Ellis / art by Brooke Allen
Here is a picture of the cover of volume one which you might not be able to see. It features the five main characters: Ripley, April, Jo, Molly, and Mal (in Stevenson style, which is hard to explain so go look at the cover of Nimona
). Lumberjanes are a kind of Girl Scouts on
estrogen, plus these five particular girls keep running into monsters that are far from the average. Each issue collected starts with a little excerpt from the the Lumberjanes handbook, done in a tongue-in-cheek "Miss Manners" style, about how proper young ladies should behave when confronted with the Wilderness. Each one starts out sounding like something horrible from the 1950s, but ends with implications of bad-assery, ala, "A young lady should be well versed in how to cook. After all, her knife skills may come in handy when confronting a mutated grizzly." (That's my example. Stevenson and Ellis are cleverer than I. Unfortunately, I already returned the volumes or I'd give you something actually from the text. But they're very much in that vein.)
At times, for me, the characters were trying a bit too hard to be... hip? I dunno, I guess I mean whatever you kids are calling 'cool' these days... or clever. Mostly, however, I liked them. Jo was, of course, my favorite even before( Read more...Collapse )
Likewise, Mal and Molly, the lesbian (or at least in love with each other) couple were runners-up. Of them, though I liked Molly a little better, if only because she seemed nerdy in a way I could relate. Mal, though, at least, physically looked like me--in college--but, in college, I used to complain that the butchest lesbian we ever saw on TV was Willow from "Buffy," and that wasn't saying much. So, it's really nice to see the butch, punk girls not only being represented but also allowed to secretly/not-so secretly be very NOT butch when it comes to being brave, etc.
The stories themselves impressed me less than the characters. If you're really hoping for something whiz-bang in terms of storytelling, I'd say go read (or re-read) Nimona
. But, if, instead, as one of the Lumberjanes slogans goes "Friendship to the Max" is more your thing, then you will enjoy the heck out of Lumberjanes
I will say that, in this current political climate, Lumberjanes
was exactly what I needed. I got through many nights by pouring myself a hot bath and settling into soak for a good long time while reading Lumberjanes
. I used Lumberjanes the way I used "Free! Iwatobi Swim Club" and "Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories" ... which is to say, I turned to them when my brain needed something vaguely mindless, but ultimately happy/satisfying.
...Or $11.50/hour as the case may be.
I'm not really sure what possessed me to agree to EVERY Tuesday and Wednesday at the library for the entire month of February. It's not that I mind putting in the hours themselves, but routine of it... Okay, I realize that most people have to go to the same job every day, five days a week. I used to do the same thing. I don't know how you do it, okay? Honestly, don't know how I used to do it. Maybe it bothered me less when I knew that was just what it was. I think what's starting to bug to me about this all this regularity lately is that one of the things I've really come to enjoy about my library job is that I go different places at different days and times.
I don't actually like consistency or regular hours.
If I'm honest, I don't think I ever did. If I could have found a career that allowed me to keep odd hours, I probably would have done well at it. I liked university life because it was different every semester--so maybe I should have been a college professor. But, I think one of the reasons that I used to hop from job to job was because I'd just get to a point subconsciously where I'd be like, "Yeah, okay, I've done this one thing enough now. Time to move on!"
Though, I did find several that I lasted years at, like the Immigration History Research Center and the History Center. (Of course, by that time, I was also writing novels on the job.)
Hmmmm, so maybe I'm good at staying at jobs I don't really work at?
Oh well, my proclivities have made for an interesting resume. Too bad I never developed any really useful skills. I can answer the phone like nobody's business, though.
February 19th, 2017
Starting with a picture again. If you can't see it, it shows the street-view crowd at Saturday's Solidarity March with Immigrants and Refugees and the back of a woman holding a sign that reads, "Minnesotans Love Muslims, dontcha know."
This was Mason's favorite sign out at the march. We weren't able to go for very long, but I was pleased that we passed one of the crowd counters before we had to peel off. It was a good march. I'm realizing more and more that I need a release like public yelling to deal with the anxiety that the Trump administration fosters in me. If I don't yell constructively, it comes out in other ways. And my family does not need me going ballistic over directions to Shoreview. :-)
We drove out to Shoreview yesterday to look at a possible new car. It was a Ford 500 and had high miles on it, but it seemed like it could have been a good car for us. But, when we got there it was in much worse shape than advertised (and by "advertised," I actually mean as Shawn's brother described it to us, not an actual ad.) The windshield was cracked, the interior was filthy, and, most importantly, it wouldn't start... not even with a new battery. So, that was a bust. I'm only disappointed because the price was right. It would have cost us under a thousand bucks, because the guy is pretty desperate to get rid of it, since he's living in Ecuador right now.
On the other hand, we had a nice time chatting with Shawn's brother, his wife, and our ex-nephew-in-law (eh, he's still our nephew,) Ray. Shawn and I had never had much of a chance to talk to Ray since the wedding (it was a very short-lived marriage), and, at the risk of sounding like an old lady, i just want to say he's a very nice young man. Should I also say he "seems to have a good head on his shoulders"? What are the other cliches I could use? Seriously, though, it was a pleasant time with all of us standing around in the driveway looking at the sad Ford.
Then we had Rosemary over and I finally managed to make her something she enjoyed eating. To be fair, it was very simple. We just had black bean and cheese quesadilas with Spanish rice on the side. I kind of figured they'd be a hit, since it's the sort of thing I make myself all the time. But, we're slowly working up to something more complex.
Today, Shawn is headed up to her brother's house (catching a ride with her other brother) because they're doing some kind of renovation to the basement and there are items up for grabs. I'm just as happy to be skipping that. It seems very much like a Rounds thing, if you know what I mean. Mason and I will hold down the home front--do a little house cleaning and whatnot.
February 17th, 2017
I'm off to volunteer at Quatrefoil in about fifteen minutes. I don't think I'm going to last very long there. You can ask my family, but I'm not in a very sociable mood. (I would actually have said no to this, but I haven't been able to go for the last few weeks, and so I felt guilty). Plus, Shawn had to make a same-day appointment at the doctor's. She's developed a fluid filled lump on her elbow (bursitis
?) But since I'm the one who harassed her to make the appointment, I can't complain that I need to cut my day short to take her in. (Well, I CAN, but it seems disingenuous.)
And I didn't have big plans for the day, anyway.
I was thinking about starting a short story. Every once and a while, I go trolling through the anthology listings at ralan.com
. Yesterday morning, I found something that seemed like a fun idea--post-apocalypic military horror--and I did some brainstorming with the ladies over coffee and got a pretty good plot idea that's percolating right now in my head. I'd much rather stay home and do that than deal with... people, even the nice people at the Q.
Although I will say that the idea of horror and post-apocalypic stuff are really depressing... I mean, we kind of live in a horror apocalyptic world right now.
On the other hand, I got a lead on a job yesterday that's pretty exciting. I can't say too much about it, because the actual listing hasn't been posted yet, but a friend of mine alerted me to work as an acquiring editor (non-fiction) for a local publisher. It would be a good fit for me, actually. So I polished off my resume and sent it off. Fingers crossed.
February 16th, 2017
First, I need to kickstart my career by 2018. I just got an invite to be one of the GoHs for Minicon next year. It would be nice if I had something to promote by then.
This summer Mason and I are planning a road trip. Normally, we tag along to Shawn's annual COSA/NAGARA meeting (Council of State Archivists/National Association of Government Archives and Records Administrators). This year, however, it's in Boise, Idaho. Nothing against Idaho, but I'm not sure there's enough stuff there for Mason and I to entertain ourselves for 5 whole days. So Mason had this brilliant plan. When mom flies off for Boise, we hit the road. We drive through the Dakotas and Montana and meet-up with her in Idaho, then we all travel back by car and see Yellowstone in Wyoming and the South Dakota badlands.
I think this is brilliant. Shawn agrees (especially since she hates flying and this saves her a return trip).
We're going to do it!
In fact, at the library yesterday I picked up some guidebooks because I have no idea what's even in Montana. Glacier National Park is, for one, although that's at the far western end of the state--(though we are talking 5 days to get from point a to point b, and driving straight through we could make Boise in 24 hours.) Shawn is activating our AAA membership and ordering all the road maps and AAA tourism guides to all the states we could potentially drive through.
The best part is that Shawn's conference isn't until this summer, so we have lots of time to look at maps and guidebooks and plan. I found a couple of really fun guides to interesting backroad attractions in Montana and it's been fun to page through them. A nice distraction from the political barrage.
I've never travelled much in this direction (that I remember. My parents, of course, brought me back to Wisconsin from my birth place in Sacramento, California, but I have zero memories of any of that as I was an infant.) I've been to visit Colorado a couple of times, but both times I flew. I know that a lot of both Dakotas are pretty flat. We drove through some of that to see Mount Rushmore, when Shawn and I went with Karl from Czech. I'm pretty sure we're going to do South Dakota on the way back, though, ironically, all of Shawn's relatives are in North Dakota so we may have to figure out a way to reverse this while also saving Yellowstone for Shawn. Previously, when we'd talked about road tripping while Shawn was stuck in Boise, the thing that made Shawn sad was the fact that she'd be missing experiencing some of these major landmarks with Mason, particularly Yellowstone which she hasn't seen either. She'll still miss some this way, but not all. Shawn likes traveling when it's by car, so this really is a two-fer. (This really is a brilliant solution. Go, Mason!)
And we will very likely have a new car by then. One is in the works, in fact, though the one we're looking at has more milage than the one we're currently driving. However, it might be worth it if the price is right AND it has fewer issues. Our current car has sprung an oil leak on top of its preexisting radiator leak. Not something you want to traverse mountain passes in.
Doesn't this sound fun?
Plus, as I said, the planning for it has been a welcome distraction. It's nice to have a future thing to look forward to and be excited about.
Now I just have to figure out how to re-launch my career!
February 14th, 2017
OMG. So, this is an activism first. I ended up breaking down into tears while calling my state House Representative Erin Murphy. There's a bill that was introduced to the MN State Legislature, HF1183
, which, if passed, would allow health insurance companies to deny health services related to gender transition to trans folk. I was doing pretty well on the answering machine until I got to why this is important to me. This is LITERALLY what the friend of a friend killed herself over--a fear that something like this would come to pass and she could no longer get access to the things that are critical to her life. Two of my other friends have considered (and attempted) suicide over the same thing.
So, I started balling.
I'm sure Erin Murphy's office will remember the call.
I was lazy with my Project 1491 project. I was supposed to call Senator Franken (who is, of course, on the committee that hears this) about S.J. Resolution 13, which, if passed, with give states the authority to defund Title X programs, which is just the Republican hating on Planned Parenthood some more. I wrote him a postcard on my fancy new post cards that I purchased just for this reason. (Bummer? The card is shiny and slick on BOTH SIDES, which actually made it really hard to write a letter that didn't look like it came from a crazy person.)
Otherwise, I put in 4 hours at Shoreview. Today was labor intensive... but I survived because of our usual Tuesday bagel.
I just finished reading LUMBERJANES Vols. 1 -5, because the library had them. I will probably write a review here in the next couple of days. Generally though, I enjoyed them. Good clean fun, as grandma used to say. Today I checked out a couple of books about Montana because Mason would really like to plan a summer road trip there.
February 12th, 2017
A friend and I drove up to North Branch today to door knock to get out the vote for Laurie Warner, who is running in a special election (Feb. 14, Valentines Day) for MN House seat 32B
. We all met at the candidate's house, listened to a few speeches and were handed a clipboard with a map and a list of registered Democratic voters. At this point, we really weren't expected to try to change minds or convince voters to do anything more than show up on Valentine's Day to vote.
Democracy is cold, tiring work.
We probably had about forty houses on our list. We knocked on all the doors, left literature at most, and maybe talked to a half dozen people? The responses ranged from "Yay, Laurie!" to vaguely annoyed people who used their barking dogs as an excuse to take the literature and shoo us off. No one was openly hostile, however. Face it, even *I* don't like it when strangers show up at my door--especially when one of them is holding a clipboard. So, I feel it went as well as expected.
I was very glad we weren't knocking on every door, only ones already left leaning. The whole thing was a huge flashback to the weeks or so that I worked at various "activist" jobs: Clean Water Action Project and ACORN
(both jobs I quit very quickly because I HATED the work. It was all the hassle of door knocking and phone banking PLUS having to ask for money.) On the other hand it was also the sort of thing I grew up watching my parents doing... so the circle is unbroken.
At least the weather was fairly decent and this was yet another one of those things that makes me feel less anxious.
February 11th, 2017
Today was the 2017 Minnesota Writing Workshop
. I was a guest critiquer, which meant that I got about 10 pages of a manuscript to read and review ahead of time and 10 minute slots in which to give the good news/bad news to the submitters. It was a very... intensive process, even though I only had three. (Four writers had submitted, but one decided not to show/couldn't make it for whatever reason.) All of my critiquees left with a smile.
Long ago--actually it was my first Loft class, one I took, no less, that's how long ago--I learned something important about critique. No matter how far along you are in your career, it's more... palatable to hear about the things you did right, that excited or thrilled the reader FIRST. After you get a little praise, then it's a lot easier to open your ears and really listen to what didn't work, where you need improvement, the GLARING HORRIFIC PLOT HOLES, etc. So all the people who got critiques from me heard how much I liked the sassy heroine's witty repartee or the depth of their world building, etc., before I doled out the bad news. One person was so happy with my critique that her mom sought me out afterwards to give me a giant bear hug.
I found out later that wasn't really the typical tone. I poked my head into a workshop called "First Pages," where the first pages of anonymous contributors (presumably at the conference?) were read aloud and given an on-the-fly, off-the-cuff critique by a panel of about seven agents/editors (who also had a paper copy in front of them). My friends.... it was brutal. I don't think I would've submitted the first page of my published novels to this group! It was like "American Idol" only more vicious! To be fair, I think it was all accurate and excellent advice. I don't think people were being mean for sport or gratuitously. But, it definitely was hard core. No one was pulling punches.
Writing is a tough business, no doubt. If you can't handle blunt, albeit constructive criticism then, yeah, maybe this business isn't for you. BUT... I tend to try to be more sensitive. I believe in honest critique, but I have made my writers' group stick with the strengths first model because I really believe it works to... well, not soften the blow, but to be more receptive to it. The point of critique is to really listen and try to honestly consider what's not working in your piece, right?
But, some people like the other method. For them, it feels more 'honest' if you go for the jugular right out of the gate (just to mix my metaphors.) In fact, at lunch, when I was talking to the other agents and editors who were doing critiques and hearing pitches, they were saying that a lot of people were saying to them, "No, I want you to hurt me."
Indeed, one of the critiquees that I was the most kind to told me that she had come prepared to listen hard and take copious notes. She'd steeled herself for the "this is going to take a lot of work" speech. I was like, "Nah, girl, you're good. Send it out." (Hence the hug.)
The conference was in the Riverfront hotel in downtown Saint Paul which was a nice venue. There was a nice lounge area in the middle of everything for hanging out and recharging phones. It was much smaller than I expected. I think because of the number of writers I know, I assumed it would be packed. But, I think it was fairly expensive. I only saw one local author I knew (probably most people were out at one of the three big protests today--there was a rally in support of Planned Parenthood, a #BlackLivesMatters march, and Caravan of Love - marching in support of immigrants and refugees.) I told all my critiquees that, if they lived near here, they should really be attending local science fiction conventions. I also plugged the heck out of WisCON's writers' workshop too. Hopefully, we will see a few fresh faces at various cons.
A good day.
The other funny thing about the workshop was the fact that in pretty much all of their correspondence to presenters they mentioned "there is no coffee available on site!" I took this dire warning very seriously and stopped at Claddaugh's Wee Shop on the way in. Undercaffinated critiquing seemed like a really, really bad idea.
Oh, yes! The other nice thing that happened is that I reconnected with a former student of mine who has gone on to co-found a publishing company called Wise Ink
. We made a date to get together for coffee. So, that's cool.
February 10th, 2017
The revolution will long and hard, my comrades, so I have followed the advice of every columnist out there and have chosen Thursday as my "Aggressive Self-Care Day."
What this means is that, for the most part, I try to stay away from political news. I say "for the most part," because it's fairly impossible to miss all of it and I don't actively stop listening to the radio shows that give me comfort like "The Stephanie Miller Show" (because humorous) and "Democracy Now" (because solid, steady.) Both of those are highly political, but neither of them TEND to stress me out. What tends to stress me out is the all-caps frenzy of social media.
Basically, I take a day where I stay away from Twitter and Facebook, and where I actively consider doing things that refresh me: reading, writing, drawing, practicing Japanese, and watching shows. Downtime things. The fun downtime thing I've been enjoying lately is watching "Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories" on Netflix.
Do you ever have things that get recommended to you on various venues? "Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories" was one of those things for me. Sometimes, it works out badly (see my review of Tokyo Ghoul on MangaKast
,) but this time I've been really enjoying That Thing That Got Rec'd a Bunch. As I told another friend, the simple, sweet stories are a perfect antidote for this political climate. The only drawback? Every episode makes me hungry. Basically, the set up is that somewhere in Tokyo there's a small, one-man show diner that opens at midnight and stays open until 7 am. Our proprietor has a simple menu, but he'll make anything his customers request, so long as he has the ingredients for it. Each episode is named for a customer's custom order and the food, in some way, features in the story. As I say above, the stories are simple and mostly end happily... certainly with the promise of happiness. Then in a typically Japanese way, there's a weird, short omake at the end where everyone kind of breaks character/doesn't quite break character and silliness (and probably puns I don't understand) ensue. The episodes are anime length--about 30 minutes each. PERFECT for washing dishes.
Also there are several food ordering, food related vocabulary words that come up a lot, so I can pretend I'm also practicing Japanese while watching.
Today, I was supposed to be at Shoreview again, but Mason woke up with a stomach flu type thing. I bailed in favor of taking care of him.
February 8th, 2017
It's been a long time since I reviewed a comic book here. But, when I was working at Shoreview today, I saw that they had the first collected volume of FAITH.
(Light spoilers. Not below a cut, because none of the spoilers touch on the plot of the novel much at all.)
Don't know if the picture thing is going to work, so I will describe the cover: Faith is a plus-sized white woman with blond hair. She's featured on the cover sitting on a telephone wire surrounded by confused-looking pigeons while she types something on her thinly-disguised Mac Book (the actual Apple logo is not there, but there's a perfectly round bit of light where it should be). She is dressed in a white outfit with a flowing train. Her cheerful face is illuminated by the blue computer light in the twilight. Her name, Faith, is in bright yellow almost comic sans font. The comic is produced by the independent publisher, Valiant.
What I like about Faith is not her size. It is refreshing to see a woman of substance doing the superhero-ing for once. It's even more refreshing that there's not a single lick of fat-shaming to be found in the title. The worst that happens in that vein is that Faith's ex's new girlfriend mutters, "You sure traded up."
What I ended up liking about FAITH, though, is that it starts to struggle with real-world issues of being a hero. As any of you who have read this blog for any amount of time (or who have heard me speak on comic book/graphic novel-related comic books) knows, I'm a big fan of this kind of thing.
I really like it when the concept of hero-ing is taken seriously.
In the second issue of FAITH, we see this dealt with in terms of collateral damage. Faith has gone to investigate a missing person report and the bad guy minion she encounters in the abandoned house has rigged the place to explode. Faith is protected because she has a kind of telekinetic shield, but the houses on either side of the abandoned house ALSO CATCH FIRE. I can't say you never see this sort of thing in comics because the Marvel Universe (both in the comic books and the MCU) have been very cognizant of the idea that superheroes are actually fairly hazardous to civilians, but I never get tired of seeing writers taking on this particular issue. Francis Portela does a great job showing the pain on Faith's faith in the aftermath. Generally, I should say that as much as I like Jody Houser's writing, it is very much highlighted by Portela's art style. (There also also funny imagined/day-dreamed asides/omake drawn by Marguerite Sauvage that were in a very distinct style that I also liked a lot.)
Also, FAITH fits a new trend in female comic lead characters. Like Kamala Khan, Faith is a fangirl. The dialogue is chock full of geek insider references. Faith even swears in "Firefly" Chinese, at one point. As a day job, Faith works for some kind of web content place, like io9 or Mental Floss (though with a more celebrity gossip bent, since this takes place in LA). Her colleagues are all pop culture nerds, and they have no idea she's a superhero in disguise. Did I like this or did it feel like it was trying too hard to appeal to the base? I'm not sure. Goodness knows, I appreciate any fan fic references.
The other issue FAITH addresses is the extent to which having a secret identity is socially isolating. I'm not sure how often that idea has been touched on before, but I found it very compelling here.
The last thing to know is that Zephyr/Faith has a history as a Valiant superhero. I'm not a big Valiant reader so I have to trust Wikipedia on this one, but apparently she was part of a superhero group (referenced in this reboot). Apparently, she was a walking fat joke (she was known as Zeppelin--she's dressed all in white and can fly) in a group called Harbingers (or maybe that was the title and her team was the Renegades?) At any rate, some of that bleeds through into this issue, but I can attest from experience (or perhaps LACK of experience) that it's not necessary to have read any of her previous appearances to appreciate this reboot.
I give is 3.5 out of 5 stars. My hesitations mostly hinge on the fact that I'm not sure I really needed all the nerd-sassy references, and that some of the issues touched on could have gone deeper, IMHO.