Posts Tagged ‘discussion’

Library Book Sale Finds: The Body in the Library by Agatha Christie

So, squiders, one of my “resolutions” for the year is to read more of the books I have sitting around. Specifically the books I keep picking up at library book sales.

It tickles me eternally that, as an adult, I like to talk about books when I hated it so much in high school.

If you guys have been around, you know I love mysteries in general and Agatha Christie in particular, so I never miss an opportunity if I see one sitting around.

Title: The Body in the Library
Author: Agatha Christie
Genre: Mystery
Publication Year: 1942

Pros: Fast read, has Miss Marple
Cons: Meanders a bit in the middle

If I had to pick between Poirot or Miss Marple I’ll go Miss Marple every time. I like the deviation from your standard mystery protagonist. And I don’t mean that she’s an older woman, though I do appreciate that as well, since older women are rarely included in most novels, and certainly not as the protagonist. I mean she rarely actively sleuths; she just picks things up through gossip and knowledge of human nature. The quintessential armchair detective.

This is the second Miss Marple novel I’ve read, I believe, though I’ve read a number of short stories. She’s not actually that active in the book–a lot of chapters are from other points of view, such as the inspectors’ working on the case or other side characters–but she does figure it out, all the same, and sets up an elaborate plot to catch the murderer in the act, which I’ll admit is one of my favorite mystery tropes.

I also appreciate that the other characters in the book, especially the police, respect her and her abilities, instead of writing her off.

Is there anything special here? Not especially. It’s not one of her twistier plots. But it’s a fast read (I read it in about two hours total), it’s entertaining, and it includes this bit of dialogue:

Miss Marple said doubtfully, “Of course, dear, if you think I can be of any comfort to you–“

“Oh, I don’t want comfort. But you’re so good at bodies.”

Page 13 in my copy, The Body in the Library, Agatha Christie

I laughed out loud. I’ll admit it.

Would I recommend this book? Absolutely. Read almost anything by Agatha Christie (except The Passenger to Frankfurt, which is one of her last books and is a bit unfocused in general).

(As an aside, my copy’s cover has a body stuck in a bookcase that is obviously shorter than said body, which amuses me greatly. Someone took the title very literally and obviously did not read the book.)

Read this book? What did you think? Opinions on Agatha Christie in general? Miss Marple or Poirot?

The Internet Marches Ever Onward

I’m putting together a cosplay, squiders.

It’s been a while. The last time I cosplayed was when I dressed up as Amy Pond from Doctor Who for Denver Comic-con back in 2014. That was just a closet cosplay (meaning I just wore clothes I already owned) so it didn’t take a lot of work.

(It also didn’t work particularly well on its own. One person recognized me the entire day, and she was dressed as River Song. One friend I ran into thought I was Mary Jane from Spider-Man which, fair. What’s one redhead in normal-ish clothes from another?)

The last cosplay where I actually made costume pieces and whatnot was when I did Agatha Heterodyne from Girl Genius for WonderCon back in 2010.

But before that, I was a big cosplayer. I’ve been that person who’s spent a couple hundred dollars and six months of their lives on a single costume. I’ve made props, armor, shoes. I’ve styled wigs (though not well, ahahahaha). I’ve made my own patterns. I’ve embroidered and appliqued.

That was before, though, when I was still employed and childless. And, to be honest, I haven’t really had the inclination to recently either.

But anyway, I was kind of remotely thinking about cosplaying, and then a friend said, “Hey, that sounds fun, I’ll do this other character,” so now I am definitely cosplaying and have the main part of the costume put together.

But it has been a while, and this costume makes use of something I’ve not done before, and that’s FX contact lens. These are contacts designed to make your eyes look inhuman in some way, either by changing the shape of the pupil, or being a weird color, etc.

(These are otherwise normal in size/shape. The whole eyeball kind are called “scleral contacts” and are apparently very uncomfortable.)

I am extremely nearsighted, so I will need prescription lens, of which there is a very limited supply, boo. But I thought I’d go to my old cosplay hangout and check out the forums to see if people knew other alternatives I might have missed.

The hangout in question is cosplay.com, which is a lovely website that not only has a forum, but allows you to keep track of and display your costumes.

Or, it did.

Admittedly, it’s been a while, and I haven’t been on the site much except to show pictures of costumes to various people every now and then. So I was very surprised to find they’re in the middle of revamping the entire thing, and half my costumes and most of the forums are MIA.

(It doesn’t help that it seems like it’s been revamping for several months.)

Have you ever had that happen? You go back to some place you used to hang out at all the time to find everything has changed?

Anyway, I’m out of the loop and looking for a good cosplay community to hang in, if you know one. Otherwise, I suppose I’ll flounder about and do the best I can.

(Alternately if you know stuff about prescription FX contacts, hit me up.)

How’s your Tuesday, squiders?

Alternate Universes

Morning, squiders! The bigger, mobile one has a “virtual day” today, which is the worst. Basically, when the district declares a delayed start, his school just has everyone stay home and do work on the computer. Let me tell you how self-motivated a first grader is.

(Hint: Not especially)

So, since I have an added complication today, I thought I’d dig up another of those old, old saved blog drafts. Today’s comes to us from Dec 2010, where my notes say:

“ALSO AWESOME”

Once again, this is so helpful for deciphering what I wanted to talk about.

(Also, this begs the question, if this is “also awesome,” what was the thing that was originally awesome?” Alas, that knowledge is lost to time.)

I did go back and look at December 2010 and who knows. There’s a post about Turtleduck Press (which launched in Dec 2010, so that makes sense), a bunch of link round-ups, and the periodic rant about how I’ve tried to do much. It might potentially be about the lunar eclipse. The word awesome is used.

But, hey, alternate universes! I wonder if I meant “alternate universe” in the Sliders sort of way, where characters travel to universes that are essentially ours with some tweaks, or more in the “Man in the High Castle” or “Iron Moon” sort of way, where something in history went a different way and changed everything that went after it.

Or maybe I wanted to talk about the fanfiction concept of alternate universes, where you take characters from a book or a movie or a TV show and stick them somewhere else. Like, instead of galloping about the galaxy on a spaceship, everyone’s in high school. Or vice versa, for that matter.

Anyway you look at it, alternate universes are kind of fun, and a mainstay of science fiction. A lot of science fiction comes from “what if?” questions, and alternate universes are a direct response to that. What if Columbus didn’t find the Americas? What if we discovered space travel in the 1850s? What if gravity wasn’t automatic? What if the United States had rejected capitalism?

They’re good for fantasy too, though they work differently. Alternate universes in fantasy tends to be more synonymous with portal fantasy, where characters are actively traveling somewhere else, often using magic.

But, really, you can’t go wrong.

How do you feel about alternate universes, squiders? What’s your favorite example (of any kind)?

Star Trek Discovery, Mid-Season

Back in October, we talked a bit about Star Trek Discovery, which was fairly new at that point. And I think I spent most of the post complaining about CBS Access, actually.

(We have managed to get several free months out of CBS Access now, so I’m a little less grumpy about the whole situation, though it is still stupid and we had to buy my MIL a Roku for Christmas so she could watch the show.)

Discovery had 9 episodes in the fall, then went on a mid-season break, and started back up this past Sunday with the second half of the season.

(I have Feelings about Sunday’s episode. Most of them fall into the “sdfhkesfhsfhddf amazing” category but I am also REALLY MAD about one little part so I haven’t been the best conversationalist on the topic.)

So, now that we’re further into the series and the show is more established, how do I feel about it?

I love it. I unabashedly love it. Have there been some less than stellar episodes? Yes. Are there some characters that I don’t like that much? Yes. But that’s television.

(Stamets is no longer a no-go for me, but I still don’t like him as much as I want to like him.)

(Tilly, however, I ♥.)

The acting is great, the writing is good, the throwbacks to the original series and even Enterprise make me happy, and for whatever flaws you want to point out (mileage on that seems to vary person to person), the story is interesting and engaging. It is good television. And it is good Star Trek.

(Though I am sad that it is too adult in content to be able to watch with my kids. Most episodes are rated TV-MA, and it does get dark and scary in some places. But I can still watch TOS and TNG with my kids when they are willing to sit down and watch Trek with me, which, to be honest, is not often.)

(Though we did watch this very interesting Next Gen ep the other day that I don’t remember, about a Romulan who comes to the Enterprise with information, fully intending to betray the Empire to help avert a war, but the Empire has fed him false information so he basically just proved he was a traitor and the Federation got nothing useful.)

(I ♥ Romulans.)

The new plotline that started up on Sunday is amazing and I wish I could gush about it more without revealing major spoilers. I’m super excited about this week’s episode.

So if you’ve been holding out on watching Discovery for any reason, I’d say go for it. As I said last time, it takes a few episodes to get the shakes out, but man, it is so worth it. You should catch up now, so we can flail about the next few episodes together, because they promise to be doozies.

Watching Discovery already, Squiders? Thoughts? Captain Killy, amirite?

Library Book Sale Finds: The Doomsday Book by Connie Willis

Hey, look, squiders! I actually picked a scifi novel out of the bunch for once!

(Well, in actuality, I was talking to my grandmother about Connie Willis and the Oxford time travel novels because I’d seen Connie at MileHiCon and I’m a bit of a fangirl about her. And the next time I went by, my grandmother was reading The Doomsday Book and I was like, “Hey, I have that book and I should read it and then we can talk.” Except, of course, my grandmother is 95 and has nothing to do except read all day, so she was done in about four days and it took me three weeks, and she’s probably read four other books by now.)

Title: The Doomsday Book
Author: Connie Willis
Genre: Science Fiction
Publication Year: 1992

Pros: Excellent twists mid-book, Colin, Mr. Dunworthy, Kirvin trying to speak Middle English
Cons: Drags a bit for first third of book

Let’s talk for a minute about the Oxford time travel books. There’s four novels and one novella in the series, and now I’ve read them all except for the novella, though Connie has it nicely available on her website, so I can get there shortly. (All five entries won Hugo awards, if you care about that sort of thing.) The premise is that sometime in the mid-2000s or 2100s (the Internet is telling me both and I can’t recall which is correct off the top of my head) time travel was invented. However, you can’t bring things through time, so commercial interest quickly died off and time travel became the realm of academics, “historians” who travel back in time to observe how life worked or important events, etc. There is some amount of “slippage” based on how far you’re traveling and how close you are to milestone events (which tend to be unreachable directly).

The Doomsday Book is the first of the series, published in 1992. (The novella, Fire Watch, is technically first, being published in 1983. Then there’s To Say Nothing of the Dog, 1999, and the duology of Blackout/All Clear from 2010.) I will say that time travel is more of a frame story, and most of the novels tend to be historical in nature. Blackout/All Clear is a brilliant WWII story within the trappings of time travel (which mostly doesn’t work throughout for Drama), for example. (To Say Nothing of the Dog is not as historical as the others. That’s not to say that there’s not historical elements–Ned and Verity spend a lot of time in WWII era–but it’s not the focus. It’s much more of a farcical/romantic comedy.)

The Doomsday Book is a play on the Domesday Book (pronounced the same way), which was produced by William the Conqueror in 1086 to take stock of the land and ownership thereof in England after the invasion. The Medieval department has just gotten access to the “Net” (the process that time travel works through) and are taking advantage of the history department head being MIA to send their first historian back to 1320. The 1300s have a danger rating of 10 (because of things like the Black Plague) so they’re supposed to go through a bunch of tests before sending people, but screw that. Nothing can go wrong, right? 20th century has been sending people forever.

Of course, things go wrong.

Like most of the series, the book switches between “modern day” Oxford and the historian (Kirvin, in this case) in the past. (To Say Nothing of the Dog stays in Ned’s point of view throughout, if I recall correctly, but he’s going back and forth through time so often that he can carry both time periods on his own.) An interesting mechanic of the time travel is that time is equivalent. So if you want to spend a week in 1918, for example, a week has to pass in the current time as well before you can be picked back up. This makes missing your “drop” a big deal as you can’t just go back and try again.

There are some comedic elements, such as when Kirvin realizes basically everything she learned about the time period is incorrect (and her attempts to understand and speak Middle English) and the general snarkiness of Mr. Dunworthy’s thoughts (he’s our viewpoint character in the “present” day) and Colin in general. (I ♥ Colin, and he’ll be back in Blackout/All Clear.) But this book is closer in tone to Blackout/All Clear, more serious, and it doesn’t shy away from the less appealing aspects of the time period.

(Seriously, though, if you haven’t read Blackout/All Clear I highly recommend it. It’s long–1300 pages between the two books, but it’s one of those books you read and are awed by.)

(Not great for re-readability, though.)

Overall, it’s a good book, especially once it gets moving about a third of the way through, though I like the later books in the series better. It’s always nice to see reoccurring characters (Mr. Dunworthy is a constant throughout all the books) again, and the comedy is spot-on when it’s present. I’d recommend it, especially if the series sounds interesting to you.

Back Thursday for more common writing mistakes.

Read any of the Oxford time travel series, Squiders? Thoughts? Which one is your favorite?

Why I Loved Ghostbusters

Yay! Time for polarizing opinions!

Unless you guys have been living under a rock recently–and if you have, congrats, because this whole thing is ridiculous–you know there’s been a ton of controversy around the remake of Ghostbusters, mostly because of the decision to make the Ghostbusters women instead of men.

To which I say: sigh. Really? Is this really the worst thing that has ever happened to a remake? Have you seen some of the remakes that have come out lately?

Oy. People, your priorities are messed up.

But, anyway, let me say that I have seen the original Ghostbusters and Ghostbusters II, enough times to recognize and make quotes from them, but not enough times that they haven’t kind of conglomerated into a single movie in my memories. The first one is the one with Sigourney Weaver and Rick Moranis, yes? Gatekeeper, keymaster? Actually, looking on Wikipedia, maybe I’ve never seen Ghostbusters II, because that does not sound familiar at all. Okay! So I’ve seen the first movie a bunch apparently, and superimposed it into ideas for a second movie, which I apparently did not see or do not remember.

In my defense, both movies came out when I was very little. I was 1 when the first one came out, and 6 for Ghostbusters II. Most if not all of my nostalgic love for the franchise comes from the TV series from the late ’80s/early ’90s, which my sister and I watched religiously.

My thoughts when the remake was announced were basically along the lines of ugh, really? Must we remake every little thing that was ever at all successful? Couldn’t we at least remake things that were terrible and try to make them not suck instead of the other way around? And then I essentially wrote it off as a bad idea and forgot about it.

Then the announcement about the switch to it being a woman team came out, and of course the angry nerdboys of the Internet, most of whom probably hadn’t even thought about Ghostbusters in twenty years, came out in droves, which is always a bit sad, because, honestly, don’t these guys have anything better to do with their lives? Anything more fulfilling to worry about? If the worst problem you got is the diversification of a franchise from your childhood, man, something’s wrong with you.

I had a mixed reaction to the news. Part of me was intrigued, because we were at least going to try to do something different instead of just making the same movie over again for no good reason. But part of me was worried that they were going to do a terrible job, because most remakes are horrible, lazy things with bad writing and unnecessary action scenes, and if we were doing it just for a stunt, then it was a terrible, terrible idea.

But then the cast was announced. And then the first trailer came out. And it looked amazing, and I was onboard all the way.

Now, I will say that I am not someone who gets terribly invested in my media. I have never been one of those people threatening a studio making one of my favorite books or any of the crazy things people do. I like to evaluate everything on its own, without connections to previous movies/books/TV shows/video games, etc. So ragehating on something before it even exists is very foreign to me. (See above: don’t you have better things to do?)

So I went into the theater on Sunday expecting and hoping for a good movie, and that’s what I saw. A funny movie, with great chemistry between the leads, and some really cool bits, and at least one bit that actually scared me for a second (which was embarrassing, because I went with people I don’t know very well). It was what I hoped it would be. And I loved it.

Was it perfect? No. There’s a couple of throwbacks to the original movies that don’t really fit, and a character relationship subplot that’s a bit sloppy. Also, Kristen Wiig’s hairstyle just–I don’t know, I don’t like it. That’s a minor complaint. In general, it’s everything you need and expect a Ghostbusters movie to be. I cannot recommend it enough. I especially liked the characters of Holtzmann (which is an excellent name for an engineer, just saying) and Patty.

But, as you know, I exist on the Internet, and so I have also seen some reviews from people who really, really hated it. And I find myself wondering–did we watch the same movie? Are some of these people pretending to have watched it just so they can “legitimately” harp hate on it? Did they go in with low expectations and then spend the whole movie cataloging every mistake to justify their previously formed opinion? Did they watch the original right before going in and then fume about every difference?

I mean, I know people have differing opinions, but the wide divide between love and hate on this one seems very extreme.

Anyway, I loved it. I am plotting to go see it again if I can find babysitting, and I’m already planning on asking for it for my birthday/Christmas depending when it comes out on video.

Have you seen it, Squiders? What did you think?

No Happily Ever After?

My husband and I finished up watching Wayward Pines last night (Yes, I realize we’re about four months behind, which is actually pretty good for us, television wise). And the series was working toward a conclusion, and working, and working–and then it kind of jumped the shark at the last minute.

And I understand, logically, why they did–to leave themselves open for a possible second season, even though they used up all the source material in the first season–but it still annoyed me.

(And this morning I did some research, before I got too annoyed, to see how the books ended so I wasn’t wildly out of line.)

It just…it almost seems like it’s a trend now. It’s bad enough that we seem to have gotten to this point where everything has to be dark and gritty much of the time, but now nothing can end on a good, or even a hopeful, point.

Sometimes this can be good, but more and more I’m just finding it a little exhausting. I look at the news, and all the terrible things happening around the world, and now I can’t even escape into media because it’s just more of the same.

And I know the argument is that it’s more realistic, that bad things happen and nothing is ever truly good, but can’t we have some hope? Some peace? It’s fiction, so can’t we occasionally bend the rules?

(Ending this here because I am typing outside without gloves and it is freezing and also now snowing, and I regret my decisions in life.)

What do you think, Squiders? Any recs for good, engaging media that is not all dark and “oh noes” all the time?

(And Merry Christmas, for those who celebrate, if I don’t get here on Thursday!)