Thursday, February 26, 2015

New Alien Film: Stay Frosty

Many people say the filmmakers of The Godfather Part 1 & 2 should have stopped while they were ahead. Perhaps they didn’t realize what they had. Why tempt fate when you have perfection? But for me that soulmate transcendence, was in Alien & Aliens.  Two different approaches to a sci-fi alien story but both so symmetrical in their tone, urgency and resolve. Each movie contributed something new and perfect to form the ultimate pair.  

But as a fan, I couldn’t help but wearily welcome more installments after that, if for nothing else, to see our heroine and her beleaguered comrades again. Alas though all that came--from Alien 3 & 4 to Prometheus (yes, I said it) to Alien vs. Predator--was varying degrees of disappointment which reeked of misguided attempts and studio greed. The most egregious and unforgivable of the lot was Alien 3. In an attempt to get back to basics, the filmmakers made the infuriating and idiotic decision to kill off Hicks and Newt. I initially blamed newbie director David Fincher for this.  But it wasn’t until years later that I found out that he too was displeased with the story and the constraints placed on him by the meddling studio. So what little comfort I took hearing that the production had been plagued with endless issues, still left me brooding over what could and should have been. I know it sounds dramatic but I swear to you, there's no amount of fanfic in the world that could override this event as it was canon.

Until now.

Twenty-two years after the Alien 3 abomination, news comes that Neill Blomcamp, director of the impeccable District 9, will helm a reimagined new Alien 3 movie that will dismiss all the events of Alien 3 & 4 in favor of rounding the story out and giving it “a proper finish,” as Sigourney Weaver said recently, who will reprise her role as Ripley again. It will hopefully (please, please, please let it be true) ‘retcon’ or reimagine the fate of Hicks and Newt as well.

I figure, if Star Wars can be salvaged from the ashes of Lucas-meddling and absurdity, then perhaps Alien can be similarly reclaimed from lesser people who have ravaged and corrupted quite possibly one of best science fiction stories ever told.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Review of Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy, a handbook for Girl Geeks

This is the book I didn’t know I needed. Thanks to Sam Maggs, an Associate Editor at the geek website The Mary Sue, there is now a comprehensive reference on being a fangirl. Behold, The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy is a positive, encouraging and thorough guide on girl geekery.

For starters, in the helpful fangirl-speak glossary, you’ll find many terms you might have wondered about like “feels,” “shipping,” or “squee.” There’s social media tips and suggestions on when to use Twitter vs. Facebook vs. Tumblr vs. Pinterest to best convey or share something. There’s sage advice about “bumping” in a forum and being extra scrutinizing of the stuff you see on Reddit.  Maggs even warns about “egg people” on Twitter (love that term) and “trolls,” who are the scourge of the Internet. There’s also tips on writing fan fiction and mini-interviews with notable and famous ‘fangirls’ sprinkled between chapters.  But the centerpiece of this tome is a battle-tested, 40-page primer on attending conventions or “Cons” with insightful advice about cosplay. Having just attended my first Con in 2013, I envy today’s geeks who have ample access to them now, especially in my hometown of Seattle, like GeekGirlCon, PAX and Emerald City ComicCon.

Maggs earnestly maintains an almost unwavering camp counselor-ish tone and tempo in this guide. She deftly uses the geek-speak lingo used on fan webpages, forums, tweets and statuses. She’s also very encouraging to let your geek flag fly. It’s now much more culturally hip to be a geek than when I was growing up, but there are still subgroups of male geeks who want to undercut and delegitimize female geeks. That’s a shame because geekery, at it’s heart, celebrates everyone’s interests without judgement. But as this book shows, girl geeks/fangirls are a force to be reckoned with and will not be marginalized, derided, slandered or ignored. Here’s to hoping we can all live together in true peace--and not like the one between the humans and Cylons on New Caprica either.

All in all, Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy is a great addition to the geek collective and a wonderful primer for new (and not so new) fangirls everywhere. Thank you Sam!

This book releases in May 2015 from Quirk Books. Pre-order it from Barnes & Noble or Amazon.

Now for some “critical distance” aka constructive feedback: 
There are a few areas where I thought this book might improve in future versions:
  • I found the section on trolling informative but I didn’t care for how it was organized. In the attempt to categorize the trolls, there are (seemingly) arbitrary names and it prevented me from really absorbing all of the information as I kept wondering what the significance of the names were.  
  • The Con section is rock solid and really gives someone a very strong start for a successful event. One thing I might add, because I’m also a mom and it’s super topical right now, is how important health and hygiene is. There is a mention to carrying hand sanitizer, but with all of that humanity around you and the tendency for much of that humanity to be less [how do you say--clean?] really focus on hand washing/sanitizing, fist bumps instead of handshakes, being up-to-date on vaccinations (including your flu shot) before you go, and please don’t go if you’re sick. I know it SUCKS to think about bailing at the last minute due to an illness but think about how that could infect others. On a Nerdist podcast, Wil Wheaton mentioned how at one PAX, he and many attendees ended up getting horribly sick afterwards. Certainly this is the ‘exclusive souvenir’ you don’t want to bring home.
  • I was quite surprised not to see mention of a certain Geek Girl who is taking daily mortar attacks from trolls while fighting the good fight. I speak of Feminist Frequency’s Anita Sarkeesian. I thought at least she might be mentioned in the YouTuber section since she has solid analysis and insight on gaming and the state of girl geekdom.

Monday, February 02, 2015

Bandwagon Solidarity: Come for the winning, stay for the civic pride

The wave of excitement leading up to the SuperBowl in this city was an incredible event to witness. The whole town coalesced on this one thing: "12" signs everywhere, people wearing jerseys, car flags aplenty, the skyline & the Space Needle lit up with green and blue and there was a noticeable spring in everyone's step.  Being in this city--being a part of this city--the past weeks has been nothing short of magical.  Seattlites can be ideologically diverse and standoffish but the anticipation, even if you weren't a football fan per se, was contagious. 

I've often said that I do respect and tip my hat to the true fans who put their heart and soul into following all the games, knowing the players' stats, riding the emotional roller coaster week after week, season after season--and not just when things start to go well in the playoffs. I am reverent enough to know that I don't get to call the Seahawks team "we"--as I have not earned it. Because I know what a dedicated sports fan looks like. It's in those bleak moments, sitting in the freezing a$$ cold in Pullman, year after year, cheering on a team who can't usually finish. And yet buying season tickets anyway and seeing the glimmers of hope for next year.  (I'm describing my dad, by the way, supporting the much maligned WSU Cougars.) Given my alma mater,  it's a strange feeling to even be tangentially aligned with such a winning, dominant team like the Seahawks.  I have to admit, I was swept up in the euphoria just like everyone else when they won the NFC Championship and when I saw Russell Wilson crying after the win, it made me cry as well.

Even kids really embrace it. Now having a kid in Kindergarten--the children at school really get into the spirit each week but especially this last Thursday, (since there was no school on Friday) they all had their gear on and made Seahawks hats and ate Skittles during their math game. 

Sidney's Class

Other schools made signs and got into "12" formations and put the photos on social media. It was phenomenal.

A North Seattle Elementary School shows their support.

The city united in it's excitement last week especially with that strange and uncommon feeling of optimism and defending a championship title. It culminated in our household by throwing our first ever SuperBowl watching party with the Bernhardts yesterday.  That has never happened in all of my 40 years.  

It's true, Ken made Jello shots.

But given how the game ended last night, in a freakish turn of the tide, it was only fitting that the entire city also banded together in its grief and disappointment. And strangely enough it was in that collective feeling of despair that I really felt a palpable camaraderie with my fellow Seattlites. I'm not sure why the more negative emotion makes that solidarity more real, but it did.  And while today everyone is moving on with their lives, last night I just wanted to throw my arms around this city and instead of saying, "It's just a game." I wanted to say "In our collective frustration we are one. Think of what we could do together.... So yeah, see you next playoff season."