Posts Tagged ‘fandom’

I have a lot of books that are favorites in different ways. Infinite Jest represents one of the most rewarding reading experiences I’ve had. The Diary of Anne Frank had an enormous affect on me during my middle school years, and remains an area of interest. Hamlet is my favorite work of Shakespeare. And then there’s Harry Potter and 1984, and so on, and so forth.

If I had to name just one book to be my favorite book of all time, though, that high, high honor would go to To Say Nothing of the Dog (Or, How We Found the Bishop’s Bird Stump At Last) by Connie Willis.

My mom picked it out for me and my sister. We were going to the beach, and my mom was buying us books for the trip. I was 14 or 15, and I was in an awkward reading age during which I couldn’t find books for myself, and I didn’t want to ask anyone for help. (Also, why read when I could devote my life to watching, reading about, and discussing The X-Files!) So, my mom saw it on a shelf and thought I might like it–which is impressive, considering the summary on the back of the book in no way does it justice.

I didn’t read TSNOTD during the beach trip. That summary on the back of the book just wasn’t drawing me in. I finally picked it up months later, and then read it during every available second of every day until it was finished. (X-Files be damned!)

Since the original reading approximately 11 years ago, I would estimate that I’ve read or listened to it 15 times.

It was an extraordinarily perfect blend of my all most favorite elements: science fiction, romance, comedy, history, mystery, and literary allusions.

I credit TSNOTD with instilling in me my great love for time travel. Whether it’s Harry Potter or my high school physics class or Lost or When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead, if time travel is involved, you have my attention.

I own three and a half copies of it: one hardback first-edition, one paperback for regular re-reading, the audio cassette version, and the original paperback copy, which has been read so many times it is held together with tape and has been retired into a place of honor (shared with my sister). I believe my sister owns two and a half copies of the book–one hardback, one paperback for reading, and her shared half of the original copy.

Allow me to do the math for you: that’s 6 copies of 1 book for 2 people, and every single copy serves a purpose. Even if that purpose is to sit on a shelf and make me feel warm and fuzzy on the inside.

With my sister, I have made cupcakes devoted to TSNOTD. I have spent time casting and re-casting the movie version inside my head. (Right now, the front-runner to play Ned Henry is Lee Pace, but I can’t help and wonder if the power of suggestion is at play, considering my love for Ned the Piemaker.) My sister and I both have a serious affection for the name “Ned” for a potential son. I have given TSNOTD as a gift to more people than I can count.

In February, Connie Willis’s new book in this same universe came out. It’s called Blackout, and I don’t know much about it other than that it takes place during World War II. Though I’ve purchased it, I haven’t read it yet. I’m a little nervous to do so. I have certain… expectations I worry won’t be met, even though I know it can’t possibly be as epic is TSNOTD.

Sometimes I think that To Say Nothing of the Dog is what true love might feel like. (Setting aside the fact that promiscuity in reading material is pretty much never a bad thing.) As soon as I started reading the book, I knew I’d never loved a book in quite the same way before. Over the years, I’ve only come to love it more. And, sure, I suppose it’s possible that there might be some other book out there in the universe that I might love more. But I can’t imagine how.


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My sister and I went to see New Moon this afternoon.

It was not what we expected.

I have written before about my multi-layered ambivalence toward the entire Twilight franchise. When I read the books, I both hated them and loved them. I hated the misogyny. I hated the atrocious writing. I hated that there were people who dared to say that Twilight is better than Harry Potter. I hated the insane cult-like following that has sprung up around the books and movies. I loved how idiotically fun the books were to read.

I was pretty psyched last year for the movie adaptation of Twilight. And when I saw that movie, something magical happened. My feelings toward it were one part pure enjoyment, one part dismay, and two parts of delight at the unintentional hilarity in the movie. My sister and I both couldn’t get enough of it. We saw it an embarrassing number of times in theaters. And now, I can’t even read the book anymore, because it can’t compare to the barrel of fun and laughs that is the movie.

In going to see New Moon, we were both afraid that it was going to change the way we watched Twilight. How could we enjoy it when it might not have the same magical quality as Twilight? More importantly, maybe it would ruin the absurd magic of Twilight. Would we ever be able to recapture our delight at the way that Robert Pattinson says “halloh” when he introduces himself to Bella?

More likely, given that we both really didn’t enjoy New Moon-the-book very much, I doubted I would enjoy the movie all that much. I was pretty sure it would be painfully boring. I was never into the werewolves, and I don’t like seeing squicky Taylor Lautner without his shirt on AT ALL.

In fact, there was a trailer before New Moon “for a movie called “Remember Me” which stars Robert Pattinson and CLAIRE from LOST! We got so excited about that movie that we both said to each other that we really, really wished we were seeing that movie instead of stupid, boring New Moon.

But New Moon was not what we expected.

Oh god, shockingly, we both kind of liked it.

When the movie first started, I said to my sister, “This is so weird. It’s like we’re watching Twilight, but it’s not Twilight.”

It wasn’t Twilight at all. In fact, it’s strange how different New Moon was. The weird green filter was missing. New Moon was scored SO completely differently than Twilight. Kristen Stewart was MUCH better directed, and therefore her performance involved less frantic shaking and less lip-biting, and was far more watchable. And of course, there wasn’t nearly as much RPattz.

Most significantly, New Moon was not as full of the Twilight lulz. There were some good unintentional laughs, such as the smoky disembodied head of Robert Pattinson, but there were also actually really funny parts of New Moon, which were funny in an intentional way. New Moon did not have the wonderful hilarious magic of Twilight, but it was undoubtedly a better movie. (Although, the gross business with Jacob and the werewolves did get old.)

It was missing all the pieces that we so love about Twilight. And yet, we liked it anyway. After the movie, we kept saying to each other, “This is so confusing. I can’t believe how much I liked it.” And, “I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I kind of want to go see it again.”

I don’t understand what is going on. WHY DOES THIS FRANCHISE MAKE ME FEEL THIS WAY?

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Lack of Excitement

Last night, I was making some selected old livejournal posts friends-only. I realized a few things.

First, my-oh-my, I should have used better discretion about what I put on the internets for everyone to read. Of course, some years from now, I might look back at this blog, and think the very same thought. I suppose that before I had any sort of job, and therefore, any sort of professional reputation to maintain, discretion didn’t matter so much.

It’s not as if I have ever done anything remotely scandalous, but there were times when I should not have been quite so free and easy with my emotions. Of course, there are many people on the internets who have made a name for themselves (and some money besides) in not being discrete, but I don’t think I will wind up being one of those people, so it’s better to play it safe.

The other revelation that I had was that not so very long ago, I used to spend a lot of my time and energy being very excited about a number of things. The sheer number of words I wrote using the caps-lock alone could fill several books.

As of very late, I’m not feeling that same level of excitement about anything. There are still things I enjoy–like the Kasprzak brothers, for example. But there is nothing that makes me want to scream indecipherable gibberish up to the heavens out of my sheer love and joy for it.

There used to be many things that made me feel that way. There was The Office, Harry Potter, West Wing, and PotterCast, to name a few. Now, there is nothing that compares.

It makes me wonder: is everything in life really becoming less exciting, or I am becoming more even-tempered and apathetic about the things that used to thrill me so?

This sort of goes back to my post I wrote about musicals, and how seeing Chicago disappointed me. I didn’t feel anything close to the same level of excitement that I felt when I first saw that show. Was it because it was really considerably less well-performed, or have I changed?

Assuming that the problem is me, and not the quality of life that the universe sees it to provide, I am of two minds.

On the one hand, it’s nice to feel a little more in control of my emotions. I don’t feel like the smallest little lovely thing will send me spinning out of control with joy.

On the other hand, I do wish that there were something like a TV show that pleased me so much that experiencing it would become a major event. It’s nice when I can rely on the little things to really and truly brighten up my days. I also can’t help but feel like a component of my personality has been altered. I would be tempted to call this “becoming an adult” if it didn’t seem like this was so much a part of who I am and who I always thought I would be.

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Bigger, badder, awesome

Tonight I had the singularly delightful experience of meeting Geof from Ace of Cakes.

When my dear friend first introduced me to Ace of Cakes, she told me about one person in particular who she thought I would enjoy–he had a dry, sarcastic sense of humor, she told me, and was very cute. That person was Geof, and she was very right. Not only is he particularly funny, but he is also an incredibly talented cake decorator.

I love the show Ace of Cakes. It is comforting in how reliably entertaining it is, even when it’s a rerun. I’m not sure why I enjoy watching people do their jobs so much, but I guess it helps that their job is to make cakes that are really cool, that I like decorating cakes myself, and that the people in question are generally awesome.

So, this week I heard that Geof was going to be appearing at a local university, and that the public was allowed to attend (for a small fee). My sister and I both desperately wanted to attend, but we often have dance class on Thursday nights. And in fact, we were told last week that we would be having dance class this Thursday night–and skipping class is not an option. However, it so happened that our dance teacher decided we would not have a Thursday night class this week–which allowed us (and a lovely friend from dance class!) to spend our evening with Geof instead.

I wasn’t sure how it would be, but Geof put on a really good show. He gave a short talk in the beginning, then he decorated a cake to look like the university’s mascot. Then he tolerated awful, embarrassing questions during the Q&A. Questions included: do you have a girlfriend? what’s your favorite color? can I have a hug? can I have your apron? do you want to come back to my place afterward and have a pizza and some beer and watch It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia? I hate Q&As because the questions people find it appropriate to ask are often just way too painful and awkward, but Geof was a remarkably good sport about it.

And then, he somehow found the patience for a meet-and-greet. With the hoards of enthusiastic female fans. So, we got a have a picture taken with him!

In that moment, the thing that popped into my head to say to him was, “Wow, it’s so strange to see you in person! I’m so used to seeing you on TV! But then of course, you see yourself in person all the time.” He responded, “Well, only when I look in a mirror.” I managed to salvage myself a tiny bit by saying how much I enjoyed his work, and he very seemingly-genuinely thanked me for coming.

Oh, Geof, thank you.

Anyway, he couldn’t have thought I was too crazy, because the person who tried to make him hand over his apron was right in front of me. At least I did not demand any of his personal belongings.

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I debated what to bring with me to last night’s live This American Life show in Chicago, in hopes of getting Ira Glass’s autograph. The DVD of the television show? My TAL t-shirt? My copy of The New Kings of Non-Fiction? A tattoo pen for my heart?

I decided to take my ipod. Not only was it small enough that it easily fit in my purse, but if there is one object that I associate with This American Life, aside from perhaps my car’s radio (which would have been challenging to bring), it is my ipod. It was the 80+ episodes of TAL I had on my ipod that got me through three freezing January nights without heat and electricity. It’s on my ipod that I listen to TAL while I’m taking my dog on a walk through my neighborhood.

When I was carefully considering this decision, I found myself contemplating my status as the type of person who wants Ira Glass’s autograph in the first place. It’s not accurate to say that I enjoy public radio. I don’t. When it comes to my favorite radio shows, like This American Life or Radio Lab, I really. love. them. I wondered if I should be more ashamed that I act like a hyperactive groupie about a public radio show than should, say, fans of the Jonas Brothers–a phenomenon that seems to lend itself more naturally to grand displays of unnecessary affection.

In one of my favorite episodes of This American Life, “What I Learned From Television,” Ira Glass says, “The things I love, I love completely.” That quote is an incredibly accurate description of how I function. When I love something, I can’t help but commit an incredible amount of energy toward loving it a lot.

I met (politely accosted?) Ira Glass twice last night, once before the show, and once after. Yes, it wasn’t enough for me to meet him just once, when I apparently stumbled inadvertently into a pre-show reception where he was probably supposed to be talking up important public radio donors or something. I had to follow that up with my public radio groupie act by waiting outside the theater’s back door, because in truth, I really wanted a picture with him, as well. Dear god, I am needy. But both times, he was nice enough to talk to me. To sign my ipod. To stand in the rain and take a picture with me. He didn’t seem to be too bothered by my flailing words of inarticulate appreciation, or that I took it upon myself to track him down not once, but twice.

Last year’s This American Life Live(!) event seemed like a celebration of the TV show. This year’s event seemed like more of a celebration of the radio show. It’s not that I don’t appreciate the TV show, because I have enjoyed every episode of it. But I will never love the TV show the way I love the radio show. The TV show, I appreciate on an intellectual level, but the radio show provides me with a visceral level of comfort and happiness.

So, when Ira Glass asked me after the show last night if I had “any notes,” all I could do initially was babble incoherently about how wonderful This American Life is and how haaaaappy it makes me and it is just the beeessst and, oh, I am a dazed, brainless fangirl iiiiiiiidiot.

Eventually, I managed to get a slight handle on the situation and say something about what I actually did really enjoy about the live show. It took the standard radio show elements, and added a really interesting, and sometimes unexpected, visual layer on top of that. I found it to be really effective. The experience still felt essentially similar to listening to the show, but it happened to also have the visual sense added into it. It was fun and funny and clever and wonderful.

The big difference between last night’s show and listening to the radio show was the experience of being in a room full of people who all love TAL. Radio is a solitary and personal experience, and that is a part of what makes it so special. But last night, there was something even more personal about sharing the singular radio experience with so many like-minded strangers.

When my friend and I were walking towards the Chicago theater last night, I stopped to take pictures of the marquee that advertised This American Life Live in Chicago! I noticed all around me that other people were also stopping on the sidewalk to take a picture of the marquee, just like we were. “I’m with my people!” I told my friend.

I love This American Life completely, for reasons I can articulate and for reasons that I can’t. I may be more dorky about the way I appreciate This American Life as compared to the 3,596 people in the theater who did not stand in a cold, wet, dark alley after the show, but I wasn’t nearly as alone in my love as I usually am. I was with my people. Everyone else may have simply applauded when they saw Torey Malatia on stage, and I may have yelled, “GREAT SHOW TONIGHT!!!!” when I saw him in the alleyway, but in the end, we’re all joined together as the nerds that know who Torey Malatia is in the first place.

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When I purchased the first book in the Twilight series this past summer, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. All I knew about the books was that they involved vampires and that they were immensely popular. I was trying to be virtuous and to read more, so that I could follow my self-improving activity by saying to myself, “Great job! You are such a good reader!”

I did not know that the books were badly written, or that they were basically romance novels for teenage girls, or that they would read like fanfiction and feature the ultimate Mary Sue as the main character, or that the publisher somehow embedded cocaine into the pages of the book to be absorbed by my fingertips, thus creating one of the most shamefully addictive reading experiences I’ve ever had.

All I knew: Popular books. Vampires.

All I had: a desire for literary pride.

And now, it would be impossible to describe the last half of my 2008 without mentioning stupid freaking Twilight. I may have only read the latter three books in the series once, but it’s because I’ve been too busy reading Twilight and Midnight Sun repeatedly. I not only saw the movie on opening night, but have seen it three times since then, and can’t wait until the damn thing arrives at the dollar theater so I can go watch it ten million more times. And as much as I crack up during the movie at the sweaty-glitter-skin “AS IF YOU COULD OUTRUN ME” scene, nothing can make right my to-be-determined ultimate number of theater viewings. I constantly have a song from the movie soundtrack in my head. And I sort of want Robert Pattinson to (bathe first and then) do me.

I am egotistical enough to consider myself a reasonably smart person. I went to a respected women’s college, and am all about the girl power feminist whatnot. I deeply appreciate good writing, cleverly developed characters, and a well-told story. And god, I hate myself for it, but I fucking love Twilight.

I have a very difficult time reconciling these two sides of myself and letting myself love Twilight. I tell myself that because I recognize all of its many, many flaws and weaknesses, and because I am genuinely amused by so many of the over-the-top aspects of the story, my enjoyment of it is at least somewhat excused. And I do feel compelled to excuse and belittle my enjoyment of it.

When I graduated from college, much of how I identified myself evaporated. I could no longer define myself in the terms that college provided for me: senior, history major, choir member, resident of Shafer Hall. I was left with an amorphous sense of self that I have spent the years since frantically trying to hammer out into definitions that make sense and that make me happy and proud of myself. Of all the noble new self-definitions that could have come out of an attempt to read more, “Twilight fangirl” was not quite that for which I was striving.

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“How’s your book,” my sister asked as I sat reading The Wordy Shipmates.

“Um, awesome. I think Sarah Vowell may be… the best person alive.”

“Well, goodness,” she responded. “How… outstanding.”

Sarah Vowell’s writing, much like “Pushing Daisies,” Amelie, the Stars album “Set Yourself on Fire,” This American Life, and barbecued chicken pizza, is something I love so fervently that, when combined with my personal brand of narcissism, it makes me feel like it was created just for my own special snowflake self. Sure, there might be millions of other people who enjoy the works of Sarah Vowell, but clearly their purpose is for my own benefit, because really–of those millions of people, who could love her like I do? Oh, hi there, no one.

Naturally, it was with great eagerness that I ran out to my nearest Borders, 30% off coupon stowed in my purse, to buy Sarah Vowell’s new book today.

Her books are funny and smart, and best of all, make American history enjoyable and accessible and even more fun than it is just by itself. That says something significant, because I find American history to be really fun. Some might say absurdly fun. Like, any time you want to talk about the role of honor in the nineteenth century American South, I will put my party hat on and be ready to go.

Sarah Vowell’s books make me both giddy and frustrated, because as I read them, I find myself either delighting in what she has to say, or getting frustrated because, um, she has sort of written the books I would really like to have written. I get that the limitations of physics, and some silly moral qualms, prevent me from actually being Sarah Vowell. I can’t actually be her, and I can’t write her books.

Thus, I propose to the universe a compromise: maybe I could just be her friend? We could talk about history and politics and television and music. I could drive her to all her relevant historical sites. I know she hates driving (see: “Drive Through Please” from Take the Cannoli), and I am a great driver. I have never even gotten a ticket. (Okay, I’ve gotten one parking ticket, but I really feel like that shouldn’t stand in my way.)

If I can’t be her, being awesome by association seems like it would be so much easier than trying to be awesome all on my own.

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