Marvel might get it right

So, Marvel just announced a Captain Marvel movie. Are you excited? I’m excited. Let’s be excited together.


Yes, I am aware that Sony and WB/DC beat Marvel to the whole female superhero thing; Sony announced a villainess-focused Spiderman spinoff some time ago, and DC managed to get its Wonder Woman announcement out a few weeks ahead of Marvel’s mic drop. The problem is that Sony and WB/DC have been cranking out consistently lousy movies. Sony’s Spider-Man movies have been declining at the box office, largely because the movies are failing to to anything new or even do the familiar competently. The DC movies have managed to do better at the box office despite pans from critics. And of course, Fox hasn’t even bothered to include a woman-led movie in its lineup, even though it has all of the X-Men to choose from (and it’s worth noting that Days of Future Past had a female lead in the original comic).

I don’t think studio executives will reexamine their views about lady-led superhero movies until one dominates the box office. There is still this belief that women can’t helm a successful science fiction movie, and it’s because the few movies we do get are exceptionally poorly done. Take the pitiful crop of recent super-heroines. Lucy was a racist, nonsensical disaster. Before that, the last superhero movie with a female protagonist (not counting My Super Ex-Girlfriend) was Elektra, all the way back in 2005, featuring the love interest of one of the biggest superhero flops of its time. Going back further, Catwoman was a legendary mistake with a miserably bad script in 2004, and that was the first female-focused superhero movie in eight years. There’s a lot riding on these upcoming superheroines; if these movies flop, we’re probably not going to see another leading lady in the genre for a long time.

So I’m excited to see Marvel, the studio that has consistently been turning out both successful and satisfying movies, finally getting around to putting a woman front and center. What’s concerning is that Kevin Fiege, the current president of Marvel, said that Marvel was too busy to make a female superhero movie in an interview in August (although it’s possible that he was being purposefully evasive to keep this week’s big announcement under wraps). This could mean that Captain Marvel is a very new addition to a lineup that was supposedly meticulously planned. Will it get the same consideration as the other movies slated for release, or will it be another disappointing afterthought?

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Tiny soggy things

Itty bitty soggy things in the Pacific Northwest (at the Tsubaki Grand Shrine of America and Kubota Garden).

20141018_114057 20141018_114122 20141018_115513 20141018_120310 20141018_120336     20141019_115415 20141019_115723 20141019_122739 20141019_123452

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Books, ads, and cold hard cash

My long-suffering Keyboard Kindle finally shuffled off its mortal coil. I hopped on immediately to buy a new one, because I just can’t be without my precious $2.99 ebooks. The cheapest model available comes with advertisements: there’s a smallish banner on the home page, and when you turn the device off, the screen shows an advertisement rather than a random picture of an author/coffee cup/generally book-related thing.

My boyfriend asked me whether the advertisements bothered me. “Of course they do,” I said. “These clearly aren’t using Amazon’s recommendation algorithm. It hasn’t once recommended a book in a genre I actually read.”


Here is a picture of my Kindle trying to convince me to buy a game exclusively for a device that is not a Kindle. I don’t own a Wii U, I don’t buy video games from Amazon, and I only recognize the characters from Legend of Zelda because I played Super Smash Bros at a friend’s house eight years ago. This is the opposite of targeted advertising.

I actually do like Amazon’s recommendation engine, even when it’s a creepy reminder of just how much the company knows about your purchasing habits. It’s tailored to your interests, it’s difficult to game, and it isn’t (as far as I’m aware) weighted in favor of the Big Five. I’ve discovered plenty of excellent authors through that service. So I’m annoyed that my Kindle’s advertising runs on a different, far dumber system, one that keeps insisting I would like to read inspirational memoirs and police procedural thrillers.

My boyfriend had a different issue with the Kindle. He was bothered that a device I had bought to read books on had advertising on it at all. I had bought it, I owned it, so why should I be subjected to advertising at all?

That’s a trickier issue. On the one hand, what consumers are allowed to do with their own devices is a legal grey area; if I decided I didn’t want to see these infuriatingly off-beat ads, I might be able to find a way to block them, but I would certainly void my warranty at the very least. On the other hand, books and advertisements used to mix perfectly well. Modern readers reacted with horror when the Wall Street Journal floated the idea of ads in books, even though the practice was common only thirty years ago in print books. In the comics industry, back-of-the-book advertisements are remembered with great fondness. When I buy a print magazine or a newspaper, I expect ads on almost every page. What makes books the exception?

There seems to be a cultural assumption that prose, especially prose fiction, should exist in a vacuum untainted by any whiff of merchandising. Books should just appear, perfectly edited and pleasantly bound, and the reader should find out about them through some sort of spontaneous inspiration. The advent of online bookstores, and ebooks in particular, has heightened this fear that our books are somehow in danger of being corrupted by crass commercialism.

Never mind that bookstores have been selling choice display space for ages. Never mind that publishers have advertised books for generations (in fact, a publishing company that didn’t advertise its products would not be long for this world).

So I’m mad about these ads, but not because I object to the concept of ads in my books. I’m mad that Amazon is clearly taking publishing companies’ money to put ads in front of the wrong people, using a system that’s way worse than what they already have available for free.

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The best inadvertently sexy lines from that Evangelical Harry Potter rewrite

Have you read Hogwarts School of Prayer and Miracles yet? It’s supposedly a rewrite of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, made safe for Evangelical Christians. Every moment of it is so perfectly, deliciously insane that readers are already insisting it must be a prank. But I want to believe.  

Harry Potter

On the porch was standing a huge, muscular man with a big, manly beard; and he was dressed in a plaid, red shirt, blue jeans, and sturdy, leather boots. His chest was covered in a thick, unruly carpet of coarse, brown hair.

And we all know that it would be a dreadful, terrible sin to bring another man’s wife into intimacy.

“We don’t believe in the stuff against fornication and drinking and socialism”

Now, at the beginning of the breakfast meal, Harry had noticed, a tall, mysterious-looking man with long dark hair and gaunt, enigmatic features. He was dressed stylishly in a crisp, black suit; and his tie made a shock of red in the otherwise totally black outfit. The dark hair on his pale chest was neatly trimmed but still noticeably thick; and he wore elegant, black leather shoes on both of his feet.

“Welcome to Hogwarts School of Prayer and Miracles,” greeted the older but still handsome in a dignified, rugged way amicably.

“Well,” Mr. Snape said; and he drew his tall, strapping form up to its full, impressive height.

Harry was nervous; but he clenched his fist determinedly.

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