Yuletide placeholder

Oct. 25th, 2014 08:18 pm
afrikate: The Jolly Christmas Hippo is dancing around for Christmas! (Everybody loves the Christmas Hippo)
[personal profile] afrikate
Letter coming soon!
kate_nepveu: sleeping cat carved in brown wood (Default)
[personal profile] kate_nepveu
So the conference I did the Mary Sue talk at a couple years ago has sent out another call for papers for May 1-2, 2015. It's at Ithaca College in Ithaca, NY, and it will be partnered with ITHACON40, a comic book convention. You can see the full CFP over at Google Drive, which includes some suggestions, but the topic is Women & Gender in Science Fiction, Fantasy, Children’s Literature and Comics. Abstracts are due January 15, 2015.

I'll be halfway through Vol. III of JS&MN by then, I wonder if that's something I could get a topic out of or if my shallow historical knowledge would make it dangerous. There's always the Bujold rant, but I'm not sure if there's any interesting generalizations or insights out of it. Discworld's too big a topic, and I'm not sure if anything there speaks to me more than anything else. Hmmm . . . *wanders off, contemplating procrastination opportunities*

2014 Dear Yuletide Author

Oct. 25th, 2014 12:12 pm
celli: fingers on a keyboard, captioned "writing is the act of discovering what you believe" (writing)
[personal profile] celli
placeholder! Check back soon!

(no subject)

Oct. 25th, 2014 10:31 am
the_rck: figure perched in a tree with barren branches (Default)
[personal profile] the_rck
I made a banana bread cake with pumpkin spice chips yesterday. It's tasty but hard to get out of the pan. I probably shouldn't have used the whole bag of chips-- The cake has poor structural integrity and tends to fall apart along fault lines dictated by the chips.

I spent a lot of time yesterday rereading Rheotaxis. I haven't finished yet, so more rereading is on my schedule. I think I would like it better if someone else had written it. I keep seeing weak points, details I didn't keep consistent, that sort of thing. I did download the story from AO3, so I'm reading it on my e-reader which is more convenient than reading it on my laptop. I think I'm getting a better feel for what I've been doing with Nagi, and that can only help chapter 24 when I go back to it.

Cordelia has an all day field trip on Monday. We're supposed to pack her a 'low impact' lunch. I have no idea how to go about doing that, so she'll probably just get a sandwich and a juice box in a paper bag. They're going to be going to three or four different places in the course of the day, studying hydrology. Their current project is trying to come up with solutions to the global water crisis. I like this project both because it has a real world application and because there's no single right answer. It's pretty unlikely that any group of kids will solve the whole thing. I think it will be good for Cordelia to get into something that she can't do perfectly.

Cordelia didn't get to do a retest on order of operations. I'm not sure why they didn't when she thought they would. She also got a zero on a social studies assignment because she didn't get her notes handed in by the deadline. She blames the fact that the teacher was absent a lot, saying that she couldn't turn in her book to a sub. I think she should have turned it in anyway. That zero knocks her grade way down. She's currently got A+'s in English and science and B's in math and social studies. I'd be happy enough with the B's if she were doing B work across the board. B's are pretty good, after all. But she's doing A work except for that order of operations test and not turning in her notes.

Scott has started buying a new brand of margarine. We usually buy Earth Balance's soy free margarine, and I'm used to that. The new stuff (I forget the brand) taste bad to me. I don't use it very often, maybe twice a week, but right now, I don't want to use it at all. I'm not sure whether or not to complain. Scott eats a lot of margarine, and he thinks this new stuff is healthier. Ick.


Oct. 25th, 2014 09:13 pm
cyphomandra: fluffy snowy mountains (painting) (snowcone)
[personal profile] cyphomandra
Dear Yuletide writer,

Thank you for writing for me! Really, I'll be happy just seeing what you do with whichever one of these fandoms you've signed up for, but feel free to read through these notes as well.

Onwards. )


Pandemic (Board Game) )

The Tripods - John Christopher. )

The Marlows - Antonia Forest. )

Above all, enjoy your Yuletide!

(no subject)

Oct. 24th, 2014 08:32 am
the_rck: figure perched in a tree with barren branches (Default)
[personal profile] the_rck
I sent Cordelia (and Scott) to soccer practice even though she didn't want to go. She didn't strongly want not to go, and she didn't want to use the time to study for the test and quiz she has today. I don't think she had a bad time at practice. It was kind of cold for it (and I am glad we won't be going to the soccer game on Saturday!).

Cordelia is saying again that she wants to give me her cold in order to get rid of it. I think she knows it doesn't work that way; she just wishes it did. She also says she wants me to get it so that I know how she feels. Apparently, I haven't been sympathetic enough.

I know what the problem is with the next chapter of Rheotaxis, but I have no idea how to fix it. The problem is that nothing I have planned for the chapter advances the plot or develops the characters. It's necessary world building, but it doesn't serve the rest of the story the way that I want it to. I've only got one main character in the chapter, and the story requires that he change, not necessarily in this chapter but eventually. I'm not sure how to make this chapter help toward that end. Maybe I can't and should just focus on interesting world building. This is the payoff for things I've been talking about for chapters, a look at an alien culture (well, cultures, really, if I pull it off).

I'm just not as interested in world building as I am in the characters. This chapter is feeling like a chore, something I have to get through in order to get back to what interests me. I think that skipping it will weaken the story, but skipping it is very tempting. Nagi in the capital city doesn't interest me as much as what Yohji and Omi and Ran (and Crawford and Schuldig) are up to back at the base. But Nagi is a pivot on which the story turns. Developing him further is a good idea, and putting him out of his element ought to do that. It just isn't in what I've written so far.

31 Days of Horror: “Audrey Rose”

Oct. 24th, 2014 01:44 am
brigid: close up of my face a week or so post partum (me)
[personal profile] brigid

Mirrored from Words, words, words, art..

“Audrey Rose” is a movie about white people discovering Hinduism.

There are good things to say about “Audrey Rose.” Anthony Hopkins is outstanding in the film as bereaved father slash stalker, and child actress Susan Swift was simply phenomenal. Additionally, unlike a lot of modern films, background New York is filled with People of Color: Black cops, a Black bailiff, a Jewish lawyer who talks about Shabbas and Dybbuks, a restaurant filled with patrons including a Black woman and a Sikh family, a mixed race jury, Indian expert witnesses. Most modern movies are notoriously, unrealistically white.

Unfortunately, the film doesn’t have much else redeeming it, and also suffers badly under Indian-specific Orientalism.

The plot of the movie is that young Ivy Templeton regularly has night terrors right around her birthday. They get worse the older she gets. Meanwhile, around her 11th birthday, a creeper dude (Hopkins) has been lurking around outside her school, following her and her mom home, trailing her dad en route to work, slipping gifts for her into her dad’s grocery bag, etc. The tension ramps up and then takes a frankly bizarre and almost preachy turn for pro-reincarnation… from a very Western European/Monotheistic point of view.

Stalker Elliot Hoover reveals that lost his wife and daughter in a horrific car crash almost 11 years ago, and that night terror afflicted Ivy is his daughter reincarnated, and her soul can’t rest because reasons. Ivy’s mother Janice, who is very ineffectual (sobbing and screaming while her daughter has a night terror, for instance), falls for Hoover’s line of bull very quickly to her husband Bill’s disgust. The movie seesaws for a while between “Is Hoover just a creepy stalker” and “no this is for real come on” and comes down too heavily pro-reincarnation. It’s very much a Movie With A Message (reincarnation is totally cool and every single person in India has no fear of death and never grieves for the dead because they all, every single one of them, believe in reincarnation and everything’s totally peaceful and cool if filled with violence and starvation they’re just, you know, so SPIRITUAL) that includes a freaking court trial to determine whether or not Ivy is Hoover’s reincarnated daughter.

They decide to settle things with a dose of hypnosis/age regression which people keep stressing out about how OMG DANGEROUS!!!!!!!!! it is. Ivy dies from it, for ~reasons~ and the movie closes with Janice penning a thank you letter to Hoover where she talks about both reincarnation and heaven. The cosmology is sloppy.

I wanted to like this movie a lot, and would have enjoyed it more if there’d been more of a question over whether or not reincarnation existed/Ivy was Audrey Rose reincarnated. Also if there’d been less cultural appropriation of reincarnation/Hinduism. Anthony Hopkins is absolutely incredible, though, so if you’re a big fan watch it just for him.

This movie gets 2 out of 5 stars.

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the_shoshanna: stick figures walking wheelbarrow-style. Or having buttsecks. (buttsecks)
[personal profile] the_shoshanna
[vaguely watching the Doctor Who world tour]

Geoff: You've got to figure there's a Dalek sex toy out there somewhere.

Me: "Nubbed for your pleasure"?


Ancillary Justice (Leckie)

Oct. 23rd, 2014 12:10 pm
cahn: (Default)
[personal profile] cahn
4/5. Oh FINE. Everyone who told me what an awesome book this was -- you were right. I loved it very much. It reminds me a lot of old-school 60's-70's SF, you know, the LeGuin-Delany-Brunner-etc. era where half of the fun is being thrown into an alien (sometimes literally, sometimes not) environment and trying to figure out the rules of the culture and environment (in addition to the normal-book rules of trying to figure out the plot and/or the characters). Gosh, I love that kind of book. It's no wonder it won the Hugo. I would have voted for it too. (Especially given the alternatives... I think Stross can be an entertaining writer, but please. And Wheel of Time? Really??) It doesn't attain John M. Ford levels of obscurity through occasional helpful explanatory infodumps by the narrator, which I was rather grateful for, as I don't feel up to Ford-level puzzling at this point (but which I could imagine wishing for did I feel more up to it). I also did not find the writing especially pyrotechnic (as opposed to Le Guin, Delany, or Brunner, for example) -- this is a good, solid book, but I don't know that it'll come out as one of the field's classics. We'll have to see how the sequels turn out. But it did squarely hit a lot of my buttons of AI/sentience/identity/hard-SF.

The interesting thing was that I kept thinking about Fullmetal Alchemist while reading it, for rather obvious reasons -- AJ and FMA both deal with empire and genocide as major themes. I think I would have liked this book more had I read it before FMA, because FMA's treatment is so powerful. I was also about to say that AJ falls neatly into many of the holes that FMA avoids, but I think it's not quite as simple as that -- Breq is a murkier, less human (intentionally) character than Roy Mustang, and her motivations are not as clear, even to herself, which changes the calculus of reaction a lot. In fact, culturally -- given that Amestris has been a military dictatorship since forever -- should Mustang and the Elric brothers even be able to think about the kinds of ideas that they do? (I suppose the answer is that the Amestris dictatorship doesn't bother to culturally suppress the people in the way the Radch culture naturally limits them.) So... yeah. Very interesting to think about.

Another interesting reaction I had was to the famous gender-indiscrimination of the main character. I found that it bothered me that she thought of / referred to everyone as female, whereas I don't think I would have noticed or been bothered nearly as much if she'd referred to everyone as male. This... disturbs me. So for that alone it was worth reading!

(no subject)

Oct. 23rd, 2014 11:47 am
the_rck: figure perched in a tree with barren branches (Default)
[personal profile] the_rck
Yesterday morning, I had an eye exam. The doctor chastised me a little because it had been six years since I was last in. There's glaucoma and macular degeneration in the family (grandparents), and I really ought to be getting that checked every year. I might escape having trouble with either. Mom and Papa haven't had either yet so far as I know.

At any rate, my prescription has changed a bit, and the doctor recommended that I either get reading glasses or progressives. I'm not sure how well I'd deal with progressives. I think the height and distance of my laptop would be a major issue. I don't feel like I really need reading glasses, either. I have trouble with the print on some OTC medication bottles but not with much else. I'm not sure it's worth the more than $100 a pair of glasses is likely to run (I haven't priced glasses in years, so I don't know how much they are these days. I'm guessing low, I suspect).

I took in sunglasses because I knew they were going to dilate my eyes. The day was quite overcast, so maybe I could have gotten away without, but I wore them anyway. Because it was only a little after 11 when my eye exam ended (they took me in early because I arrived early. My actual appointment wasn't scheduled until 10:40), I stopped in at the new Walgreens on the corner of State and North University. I bought some candy and thought seriously about getting a flu shot. I decided to wait until the whole family goes for one.

At 11:30, Totoro opened, and I went in for lunch. I had the beef teriyaki bento (usually I have the chicken teriyaki). I regretted not having brought something to read. Of course, with my eyes still dilated, I might not have been able to read very easily.

After lunch, I walked down to the central bus station to catch the #1 home. I ran into our cleaning lady who was waiting for the same bus, and we talked all the way to my stop. I wonder where she lives these days. She said she was taking the bus home. She used to live in Ypsilanti, but the #1 doesn't go there.

Last night, our gaming group met, and [livejournal.com profile] booniverse ran one of her convention scenarios. We all played various types of movie monsters. I'm not sure I really did much with my character. It didn't really have skills that were suited to the scenario.

I did completely lose track of time and forget to pick Cordelia up from volleyball practice. I felt terrible about that, particularly when she told me that her tummy hurt when I didn't come. She called me on the coach's cell phone, and it's only three minutes to the school, so it wasn't as terrible as it could have been, but it wasn't good. Next time, I'll set an alarm so that I don't forget.

This morning, I did my time in the school library. I checked books in and out. The other mother who was there did all the shelving. I did three classes worth of shelf markers. I had some questions on the last set I did, but I couldn't ask because the librarian had retreated her office in tears after a talk with the principal. I couldn't help but overhear. I felt really awkward. I ended up leaving a note with my questions so that the librarian will know what I didn't do.

Cordelia has another cold, a sore throat mainly this time. She doesn't have a fever, and she was feeling reasonably good apart from the sore throat, so I sent her to school. She has a test tomorrow, and she needs the preparation time.

My tailbone hurts. It feels like it's being pulled and twisted toward the left. I'm not sure what to do about that but hope that moving around helps.
brigid: close up of my face a week or so post partum (me)
[personal profile] brigid

Mirrored from Words, words, words, art..

“Cockneys Vs Zombies” is not “Shaun of the Dead,” but kind of wants to be.

It’s a bank heist movie and a family movie and a zombie movie, mashed together. It’s a dark comedy that isn’t very funny. As an American, a lot of the references, jokes, and choice of actors was completely beyond me, though, so perhaps if I were English I would have appreciated it more. Netflix recommended this movie based on my enjoyment of “John Dies at the End” so I was expecting something very weird, and this… wasn’t that weird.

The movie opens with a construction crew doing some digging. Two men discover a sealed vault and open it up, hoping to find treasure. Instead they find a bunch of bones, and a meaty damp-looking mobile corpse that quickly attacks them. This unleashes the zombie horror on London’s East End. While that’s cooking, Terry and Andy MacGuire discuss their bank robbery plans. They very obviously have no idea what they’re actually doing, and are making a lot of very bad decisions. Their day job apparently consists of taking hot pre-packaged meals to residents of Care Homes (Retirement Communities), including their grand dad Ray, who raised them. Ray berates them for working such a crap job, tries to inspire them to work harder, to get better jobs, to make more of themselves. Ray, and the rest of the residents, are troubled by the fact that the land their home is on has been sold, and they are all going to be relocated someplace else. Other than his service in World War II, Ray has never been outside of the East End. All of his friends, his family, his memories, his shops, he’ll be leaving all that behind. He’s not looking forward to it.

The movie splits into two congruent story lines as the boys head out to rob a bank. They pick up their cousin Katey and two male friends of theirs. In the ordinary course of things, they should have stuck with Katey alone. Since one of those friends had a massive stash of guns, however, it turns out to have been a good choice. Their bank robbery is a massive bumbling clusterfuck that veers away from being a shoot out with the police at the end due only to a surge of zombies that ate the cops. The group heads out, quickly realizing what’s going on… and resolving to go rescue their grand dad.

This movie isn’t as weird or as funny as I was hoping, and a lot of the special effects fall flat, looking too obviously computer-generated. The acting is good, though, and the movie does do a few remarkable things:

  • Katey is a phenomenal character, and I wish she’d been a protagonist or is the star of a sequel or something. She’s a well written, well-realized character who is an expert at lock picking and hot wiring, she’s quick on the uptake and an excellent shot, she’s very focused, she cares deeply about her cousins and grand dad. She’s utterly amazing, and she isn’t sexually assaulted or raped.
  • In fact, nobody in the movie is sexually assaulted or raped or threatened with same. There’s some rude jokes about sex, but nothing threatening. This is an incredibly welcome change and I deeply appreciate it.
  • Gentrification is directly addressed in this movie, with Ray and his friends having their home taken from them so a development company can erect luxury flats or whatever. The old folks are simply expected to shuffle away, are treated as inconvenient. The zombie plague is, after all, directly caused by the development company. The group of survivors takes a moment to question whether or not the police/military will even make an effort to save East End and its residents, and Ray says they’ll save themselves, as they’ve always done.
  • While predominantly white, two Black men have speaking roles (one of them significant), and the zombie hoards include PoC. It’s pretty common for people to say “Oh well this movie/show/etc is set in England so obvos every single person has to be white, regardless of England’s actual demographics.” So it was nice to see a mixed cast.
  • There’s a lot of women in this film, and they talk about stuff other than men (mostly they talk about zombies). Katey and Emma are full and active participants in the movie with critical roles, and never play damsels in distress or need special ladysaving. Peggy, Ray’s girlfriend, acquits herself well against zombies using both a sledgehammer and a machine gun.
  • There is no question of leaving any of Ray’s elderly and disabled/slow moving friends behind. They aren’t CARRIED, either. Erik is assisted in walking (he just had a hip replacement), but he and Hamish (who uses a walker) primarily move under their own power, of their own volition. Through the movie, the old folks are shown as having value and being able to control the situation.

There’s a lot I appreciate about this movie, and I wish I liked it more. It really needed tighter writing, better pacing, and more humor. I mean, there’s a scene where an old man in a bathrobe escapes a zombie horde while using a walker, and it just… kind of… falls… flat. They escape in a double decker bus. There’s these ridiculous moments, but it never really gels.

I have a feeling this movie gets compared to “Shaun of the Dead” a LOT for a number of reasons and it just doesn’t measure up at all. Sadly, it’s pretty derivative, so it utterly fails at being its own thing instead. I don’t regret seeing this movie, but I wish it had been better. I give it 3 out of 5 stars.

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writerlibrarian: Steve with geek glasses and basebal cap (Captain America mall 1 - geek cap)
[personal profile] writerlibrarian
I am still somewhat battling a cold. I didn't read much. I mostly watched season 3 of Once Upon A Time and knitted.

Just Finished

Milan's The Heiress Effect.  Book 3 of Brothers Sinister series.  Two unusual leads that make this story crackle and pop. Jane and Oliver are better together then apart. They figure it out and it's entertaining making the journey with them.

What I'm reading now

Ransom Riggs. Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children. YA. Supernatural of sorts. So far it's likeable and entertaining. I'm almost half way into it. I confess I'm reading this because a movie is coming (with Eva Green as Miss Peregrine) and I wanted to read the book before the movie spoils me.

What I'm reading next

Something from my to read shelf of borrowed from the library books. It's almost overflowing.

What I bought/got from the library this week

Cory Doctorow's graphic novel In Real Life.

A Georgette Heyer's early work in ebook : These Old Shades.


Oct. 22nd, 2014 02:10 pm
aerye: Popeye surrounded by dancing skeletons. (Default)
[personal profile] aerye
Is anyone else going to see Frankenstein on the 31st? Do you want to meet up before or after for eats or drinks or general fannish celebration? Comment or email aerye at runbox dot com if you're up for it. With it being Halloween and all, I'm feeling unaccountably social. ::g::

Interview with Naomi Ko

Oct. 22nd, 2014 12:50 pm
jadelennox: Jonathon Coulton: Even white boys got to shout (joco: white boys)
[personal profile] jadelennox
Dear White People is out, and I really want to talk about with people, and it's really good, so Americans, go see it (nationwide on October 24, major urban areas for now). Nothing in the trailers or in the title will set you up for the story it is, which follows four characters closely, so everyone else -- of any race -- plays a narrative role without rich development. It's an artistic style that works well for this framework and lets the film explore a lot of different ideas about blackness -- and though it's called Dear White People, it's more inward facing than that. The four main characters (black students at an elite, mostly white university) may be neogitating a white-run world but, as should happen in a story about young adults, the culmination of the story has them learning about themselves.

Anyway I bring this up because Colorlines ([syndicated profile] racewire_feed, great source, I recommended trying it out) linked to this interview with Naomi Ko, who has one of the roles I loved an wished had been more developed. (Mostly she's there to deliver one liners or horrified facial expressions.)

Ko is quick to point out that the same millennial qualities that make the generation so creative bleed over into a new type of racism, a subtler, less conscious kind. And no, don’t call it a “microaggression”—she hates that term because it downplays the fact that the acts are still aggressive and racist, regardless of whether the individual performing the act is aware of that fact or not

(no subject)

Oct. 22nd, 2014 08:10 am
the_rck: figure perched in a tree with barren branches (Default)
[personal profile] the_rck
The OTW is having a fund raising drive right now. If I'd known they were going to, I'd have waited to donate. I donated $25 three weeks ago. I can't afford to give more now, but everywhere I turn, I see more advertising for this drive. They want to raise $70000 for new servers and other expenses. I gave when I did because it had been about a year since I last did and because I use AO3 quite a bit. I think the OTW, in general, is a good idea.

One of my Yuletide requests has an offer that isn't from me, so that's a relief. I'm matchable. Ten or so of the fandoms I offered have requests, too, so I'm matchable that way, too. I probably won't edit my sign up unless I panic about the possibility of matching on one of the fandoms I've offered. I've been pretty lucky in years past to have matched with people who wanted gen. That luck won't necessarily hold. There's at least one fandom I didn't offer because I was afraid, given the nominated characters, that the nominator was interested in a ship I couldn't see (and I may be wrong-- They may want gen. It's possible).

I need to make banana bread, but I also have to go out in an hour and a half for an eye exam (which I have put off for years and really need), so the banana bread may not happen until after Cordelia's home. Hopefully, I can get myself moving on it. It would be a shame to waste the bananas.

Starting on Monday, Scott's going to be on third shift for two weeks. Third shift is very short handed (hence a lot of overtime to cover), and each person from first shift has to take a turn working third shift for two weeks to help out. I suppose I should view it as a test run for if Scott gets the supervisor job on third shift. I'm worried that Scott won't get enough sleep, that weekends are going to be difficult, and that all of our ordinary errand running and such will be much less likely to get done. Scott does a lot of things on his way home from work right now, and coming home at 7 a.m., a lot of those things won't be possible. He'll have to make special trips out.

On Monday, Cordelia brought home a violin instead of her viola. She never practices at home, so she didn't notice until last night. I hope the boy whose violin she took didn't panic (or, as is more likely to have been the problem, that his parents didn't panic). She took the violin in today, so he'll have it back.

I probably ought to be encouraging Cordelia to practice her viola. I just forget. Music of that sort isn't habit in our family. I listen to music (so, I believe, does Cordelia at least judging by what I sometimes hear from her room), but I've never played an instrument. Scott has, but I don't think he realizes that Cordelia doesn't practice.

Last week, Cordelia had a math test and failed it. She was more than a little freaked out because she's used to this stuff coming easily. There's a retake this Friday, and we're trying to help her prepare for it. The subject is order of operations, and she has real trouble remembering what to do. She's got parentheses down pretty well, but remembering to multiply and divide (and specifically figuring out which numbers to multiply and divide) before adding and subtracting is much harder.

The school gave us no guidance at all on studying for the retake. Scott had to find a website with practice problems. They're pretty good except that they don't include exponents. I looked for practice problems, but the site I found (which looked wonderful) had things formatted badly. The PDF printed with hollow squares in place of every mathematical symbol.

I hope that the teacher would have given us some help if we could have persuaded Cordelia to ask. Cordelia refused point blank to even consider asking. She's going to have to get over that. This isn't likely to be the last time she needs help, and we won't always be able to cover.

Jo Walton, My Real Children

Oct. 22nd, 2014 08:34 pm
cyphomandra: boats in Auckland Harbour. Blue, blocky, cheerful (boats)
[personal profile] cyphomandra
Jo Walton is one of those authors whose work I usually end up at best admiring, but not connecting with (and John M Ford, who provided the epigraph, is/was another). I liked Ha’Penny (the middle of the Small Change trilogy) but Among Others, Tooth and Claw, the Sulien books etc have all failed to work for me at eliciting anything besides polite interest. My Real Children does the same; it’s readable, it has an interesting central conceit, and it totally fails to have anything like the emotional impact described by other reviewers on me. While this is obviously an individual response I did get tearful over a Sandra Boynton board book recently so it’s not entirely due to my inherent heartlessness.

More detail. )

31 Days of Horror: “Candyman”

Oct. 22nd, 2014 01:55 am
brigid: close up of my face a week or so post partum (me)
[personal profile] brigid

Mirrored from Words, words, words, art..

“Candyman” is a classic horror movie about racism, abandonment, and Chicago.

I grew up in a really religious household, although I didn’t realize it at the time. I went to Mass every Sunday and Holy Day of Obligation, I went to Catholic school from second grade (CCD classes prior to that) through High School. The way I was raised just felt normal. Most of my friends were Catholic, or came from conservative families, or both. My parents were a little stricter in some ways than my friends’ parents, and I felt very little desire to rebel against them (out of very real fear of rejection/abandonment. Ironically, I got thrown out of the house for doing laundry at the wrong time and not for any petty teenage rebellion or high spirits. In retrospect, I could have lived it up a lot more and gotten the same result.). So when my parents banned almost every movie in existence, I didn’t really question it or try to sneak around to watch them. The upshot is that there are a ton of classic movies I have never seen. “Candyman” is one of them.

“Candyman” is a movie set in Chicago. Like the best urban fantasy and horror the city is a vital, integral part of the story. It’s almost a character in its own right. The movie opens tracking vehicles along the knotted tangle of expressways, moving from the South Side Northwards. Views of the luxurious high rise condos of the Gold Coast through protagonist Helen Lyle’s window; the cop car tooling down Lower Wacker Drive; Cabrini-Green, the setting of much of the horror; the University of Illinois at Chicago, pre-extensive external renovations; the bridges spanning the cold murky depths of the Chicago River; Stroger Hospital. Part of the character of Chicago is racism and segregation, and the movie digs much more deeply into issues like systemic racism and sexism than I was expecting.

Grad Students Helen Lyle and Bernadette Walsh are working on a thesis about Urban Legends, back when your average college student didn’t know what Urban Legends were. Helen’s husband, Trevor, is a professor at UIC. Despite her protests, he touches on Urban Legends in a lecture, cuing in potential interviewees/story tellers about what Urban Legends are and how they spread. He’s also very flirty with a female student, something he seems to have a history with. While transcribing tape recordings about a Bloody Mary-esque character named “Candyman” in her office, a cleaning lady mentions she’s heard about him. Intrigued and hungry for more data, Helen asks her and then another cleaning lady (who lives in Cabrini-Green) questions. They tell her a story about a woman who was killed by Candyman when he came in through her bathroom mirror… waiting in an adjoining apartment, removed the mirrored medicine cabinet, kicked her mirrored medicine cabinet out, and came through the hole. Helen does a bit of research and discovers that this is an actual thing that actually happened, and that the Housing Projects were so poorly made that the medicine cabinets were just set into holes in the cinderblock walls. There was nothing, no barrier, between the medicine cabinets. The victim called the police twice about the intruder, called 911 to report a break in, and was ignored.

I want to point out two things here:

1) Bernadette and the cleaning women are all Black, and the film passes the Bechdel test with wildly flying colors. Helen listens attentively to the cleaning women and treats them as experts in their knowledge, learns from them… but she’ll also be profiting from their story in a way they can’t, as she has access to academia and publishing and they don’t.

2) The bit about the congruent space between bathrooms? True. People WERE murdered by intruders punching through the bathroom cabinets. “Candyman” is based on a Clive Barker short story, a story written by an Englishman and set in England. Bernard Rose, another Englishman, wrote the script and directed the movie and did a fantastic job localizing the story. At the same time, he’s a white man who is literally profiting off the pain of Black people, sensationalizing actual horrific things that actually happened to actual people and making money off them in ways the people who experienced these things don’t have means of doing. Themes of abandonment thread their way through the film: people call 911 and are dismissed; Helen calls her husband for help and he’s off fucking a student; Helen and other people scream for help and are ignored; Trevor abandons Helen for his sexy perky-nippled student; multiple housing projects holding thousands of people are left to rot and decay, those within written off as unsalvageable human trash.

After a smug, condescending lecture from another man doing Urban Legend work, Helen decides that she and Bernadette are going to gather some first hand data and visit the Cabrini-Green projects, interview some residents, take some photos. This is a shockingly bad idea and Bernadette, who has actual brains in her head, does everything she can to convince Helen not to go. The two women wind up going together. A resident points out that every time white people come by bad things follow them, and this is very true as Helen’s actions rile up Candyman and cause problems for everyone, including herself.

The “real” history of Candyman, which omits his name and date of birth or death, is an absolutely unrealistic bit of unlikely circumstance and convoluted torture and murder, yet is told as unassailable fact by a man who studies Urban Legends and their hallmarks. The Urban Legend of a man breaking through a medicine cabinet is revealed to be true. UIC, a campus rich with Urban Legends of its own (both legends common to any campus with heavy use of Brutalist Architecture as well as more specific ones relating to the Behavior Science Building and Art and Architecture Building), is a wonderful choice as Helen and Bernadette’s college. Helen is attacked, but is not sexually assaulted or raped; she undresses on camera and it’s not titillating or voyeuristic. Her friendship with Bernadette is deep and loving. Helen repeatedly crawls through small openings, emerging from screaming mouths, born again from concrete birth canals. Helen fights to retain control of herself, of her mind, of her actions.

“Candyman” also explicitly questions the function of Urban Legends. Why are they so wide spread? Why are they so important? What do they mean, what do they offer? What if they are religion, a sacrament, something sacred and divine? What if we create god? What if our desires and fears manifest themselves as power and flesh, and become hungry? What if Urban Legends grant a special form of immortality?

It’s a fantastic movie.

It’s also not without its flaws.

One of the themes of the movie is that Candyman, a large Black man who is literally not human, preys upon and controls a white woman. He ruins her character, destroys her mind, posesses her, touches her body, kisses her. This is a pretty common, and pretty racist, fear about scary Black men despoiling white women. This could have been avoided by casting Helen Lyle as pretty much any ethnicity other than white, even made less obvious by darkening her hair. Urban Legends and stereotypes about sexually insatiable white-virgin-deflowering Black men abound. Does the movie knowingly play with this trope, or simply lazily fall prey to it?

Ultimately, I was pretty blown away by this movie and wish I’d watched it earlier. I was aware of its status as “cult classic,” and all too often that means “kind of shitty and very dated” (and so much about this movie IS dated, like UIC’s East Side architecture which as drastically been changed, or the fact that most of the housing projects have since been torn down and the ones close enough to the Gold Coast developed as luxury condos… which were supposed to be mixed-use with a certain percentage going to CHA (Chicago Housing Authority) tenants. That has overwhelmingly failed to happen, and a whole lot of people have been left homeless.). But there’s a lot about this movie to enjoy, to think about, and to unpack.

In my personal rating system for 31 days of horror, 5 stars means “buy this movie, it has good re-watch potential”; 4 stars means “rent this movie, watch it”; 3 stars means “find this movie for free, eh”; 2 stars means “skip it”; and 1 star means “ugh.” I’ve run across one movie that I thought deserved negative stars. “Candyman” is the first movie I felt deserved 5 stars. There’s a lot going on.

5 out of 5 stars for “Candyman.”

I’m really glad. I was getting super burned out by shitty, hateful, shallow gore horror and flapping tits.

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caught up on WtNV

Oct. 21st, 2014 10:07 pm
kate_nepveu: sleeping cat carved in brown wood (Default)
[personal profile] kate_nepveu
And the only thing I have to say is that I haven't made tiramisu in a very long time and should maybe think about scaling that recipe down (since Chad is the only one who eats it) and giving it a go sometime.



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