Books, Thoughts

Nostalgia Porn of the 90s, part 2

Maybe I noticed this because I think that everyone else lives in their memories of the 90s, like me.  But I came across this book cover & I get the nagging feeling that the cover artist watched a lot of The Pretender.  Because this certainly looks like Ryan Merriman, who played Young Jared.  Or some scary VR replica.  Brrr, the uncanny valley is unforgiving.



My Eclipse Song

Everyone else is listening to Total Eclipse of the Heart today, but I’ve got another one for you.  What about some amazingly anachronistic synth-driven ballad-hybridized music from Alan Parsons for a movie about a medieval knight & his lady & their true love?

That’s right, the soundtrack to the one & only LadyHawke!  Enjoy it & wonder why you haven’t watched this crazy thing yet!


Abandoned Sexy Clothes

I will only admit to this once & since I’m posting this on the Internet, I guess that makes it a permanent statement.  I finally got around to reading Marie Kondo’s book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up in all it’s weird, quasi-New-Age-y, yet surprisingly practical glory.  (I hate admitting to reading popular stuff; it’s a bad snobby habit from working at Borders.)  And I’ve also been using some of the suggestions to a degree, organizing & disposing of whatever doesn’t “spark joy.”  (I cringe at typing that out loud.)  But methodically facing down each item in every single drawer can be an interesting exercise in not only housekeeping, but memory.  Which brings me to what I’d left in the very bottom drawer of my bureau, hidden under workout clothes & long heavy scarves:  the abandoned sexy clothes of my 20s.

Hello, early aughts, I thought I’d left you behind. . .

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Books, Thoughts

Off the Shelf: Watership Down

Watership DownWatership Down by Richard Adams

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I finally got around to reading this classic this year, after realizing that some of the school kids at my public library were reading it for class. Why not? I figured & picked up a copy myself. Watership Down follows a plucky group of rabbits who leave when Fiver, a more mystical rabbit, receives a presentiment that their burrow is under threat. With his brother Hazel, the group sets off on a trek to find a peaceful home & have many adventures learning about the wide world & how other warrens have survived.

I’m glad to have finally read this & I do wish I had come across it when I was younger. I think it would have made a much more emotional impact. As an adult, I was more interested in the world-building Adams undertakes: the myths of the first rabbit El-ahrairah, the Lapine language. The scenes with Cowslip’s warren are tense & entrancing. But, as a detached reader, I soon picked up that nothing too terrible would happen to any of the named main characters. They might get wounded or change their perspectives but none of them would actually die–and this suspicion was borne out. With the resulting low stakes, reading Down remained more of an intellectual exercise than an absorbing read.

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Books, Thoughts

Off the Shelf: Bimbos of the Death Sun

Bimbos of the Death Sun (Jay Omega, #1)Bimbos of the Death Sun by Sharyn McCrumb

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Dr. James Mega has a problem: he’s been invited to a sci-fi con to promote his new book Bimbos of the Death Sun. The problem is that other than his own story, he doesn’t really know a lot about the genre, or the publishing business, or about the types of people who show up to cons or what they do for entertainment. He just wants to sell a few more copies of his book before his students & co-workers find out his secret pen name. Unfortunately, Mega finds himself plunged into the heart of the con world when popular author & embittered object of fandom Appin Dungannon turns up murdered & the fen lose their collective minds.

Originally lent to me by someone in my writing group, I enjoyed laying around on my couch & just absorbing the story. First, it was curiously pleasing to read about an event that was still very regional & struggling to figure out how to get through an entire weekend of programming. In 2016, many cons (Comic-con, DragonCon, the PAXs) have become mainstream, huge-ticket, hype machines that attract insane crowds. It was nice for once to read about a con tucked away in the mountains of my home state with people coming from Annandale, Reston, & Richmond. And while certain specific technological elements have not aged well, McCrumb’s book tries to place much of the focus on the characters & their specific hierarchies & rituals. Having attended a con myself, there was still a lot that rang true about people whose status as Big Name Fans are almost jobs unto themselves, filksingers (equal to general geek-culture musicians nowadays), & room parties. There were also a number of moments that made me curious about what McCrumb thinks of the current con scene & other related niche activities. At one point, Mega’s girlfriend (& dueteragonist) Marion laments that the time, effort, & needlework that goes into some of the costumes that are only worn for a few times. (Compared to today, where many cosplay artists are venerated for their work & where patterns & fabrics can be bought just as easily at the fabric store.) At another point, Marion comforts a girl traumatized during a D&D session because her character in-game was deceived into marrying someone wearing the guise of her true love even though she-the-player knew what was going on. (Um, avatar rape anyone?) As for filksinging, come on–I think you can draw a pretty direct line from there to Jonathan Coulton & chiptune.

That’s not to say that Bimbos is a perfect package. There are some really mean depictions of the fen & I can see that perhaps the author is making the point that even unpopular groups have their jerks & undesirables. But, Marion, who sometimes seems to be a stand-in for the author herself, gives a conflicted perspective. Sometimes she navigates the groups like a pro & corrects any accidental cruelty on James’s part; other times she bites her tongue from telling the other con-goers, “Oh grow up. Really children. . .” And, yes, all of the technology mentioned in the novel is old, outdated, & seemingly silly but since I was already enjoying the story more than being frustrated by it, I was willing to do a mental search-and-replace while reading, substituting an obstinate hard drive with a locked smartphone. (The replacement actually works, especially considering the main police investigator is an older cranky man who curses the vagaries of electronics.)

Overall, a fun read & still somewhat relevant for explaining the intense societies of geeky subcultures. Recommended for those who like to laugh at their own adopted scene.

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