Thursday, November 29, 2012

Thoughts on a scene from Skyfall.

I saw this image on Tumblr today, with a nice little thesis about the significance of the scene in the context of the film and our societal expectations of masculinity. I don't have too much to add to the statement, since I think it's pretty spot-on and reads the intentions of the scene perfectly. The post did make me think, though, of my experience in the theater during this scene, which was quite interesting.

When it first became apparent that Silva was kind of putting the moves on Bond, there was an instant palpable tension in the theater -- like, holy shit, is this happening to James Bond? I can't claim to be inside the minds of my fellow audience members, so I don't know for sure what everyone was thinking, but I can state definitively that the theater was collectively uncomfortable during this scene in a way that I haven't noticed when this kind of interaction happens between men and women.

When Bond quips that it might not be "[his] first time," there was an audible sigh of relief, and laughter. It was the perfect response to diffuse the tension. It made me think, optimistically, that it wasn't so much that the audience was afraid of Bond having to do "gay stuff," but that he would be actually in a powerless position in a new and uncomfortable way. Like the pictured comment says, we are so used to Bond being in control and doing and getting what he wants that maybe it was really just that we don't like seeing this character who we know and love so well being threatened with sexual assault. Maybe it had nothing to do with the fact that he is a man and his aggressor was also a man. Maybe.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Here's something about growing up...

I've had so many conversations recently that touch on the idea that meeting new people has somehow become tortuously awkward. I certainly feel this way, which is a somewhat new experience for me, as I've always been pretty extroverted and comfortable in social situations. Now, though, I become anxious at the thought of trying to have a decent, non-awkward conversation with someone I don't know. What on earth to I have to say to someone who doesn't already know me?

I'll be... over here.
Something else I've realized, and I don't really know if this is connected to the first thing I was talking about, (but I wouldn't be surprised if it is) is that somehow at the cusp of "adulthood" we stopped asking each other what we liked, and started asking each other what we do. As kids and teenagers, I feel like given the understanding that we were all in school, I remember trying to connect on our actual interests. We're all already sitting at the lunch table after class, so let's get into who we actually are and talk a bit about what else we have going on in our lives.

Now, though, I can bet that 99% of the time, our opening line to each other is, "So, what do you do?" And I get it. Presumably, our jobs or career pursuits take up the majority of our conscious hours, so it makes sense to start there. And that's not to mention that if you're trying to date someone, finding out what they do is treated like a good shorthand for intellectual (and economic) compatibility.

But ugh, god. I suspect that even if you are lucky enough to be really passionate about your job, it still isn't what you talk about with your friends most of the time. No, you're probably talking about other things you enjoy, common interests you have as friends, things that you've done together, good times you've shared -- most of which were not based on your mutual appreciation of your job.

I feel like part of the reason that we corner ourselves into these really stilted, awkward conversations is because right off the bat, we're asking strangers about, potentially, the most boring thing about them. How could we possibly expect to be interesting and interested in each other if the standard opening line is "What is that thing you do all day that you can't wait to get home from?"

So... what is more awkward? Continuing to have that forced dialogue about our extremely scintillating day jobs, or bucking that social norm and starting off the conversation on a different foot? Well, I think I am going to try the latter for awhile, and I'll get back to you.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Book review: The Fever Series by Karen Marie Moning

Here’s the series, in order:
  1. Darkfever
  2. Bloodfever
  3. Faefever
  4. Dreamfever
  5. Shadowfever
These five officially complete my Cannonball (52 books in a year!) Yay! I had initially signed up to do the half-cannonball (26 books) — a formerly avid reader, I hadn’t really done a lot of reading for pleasure in the past few years, and I was unsure how many books I’d be able to cover. I want to say: THANK YOU Cannonball read, and THANK YOU Pajiba, for giving me the motivation to rediscover reading, one of my true loves in life. For the remainder of this year, I won’t be writing any more reviews, because I’ll probably be re-reading some of my favorite new books that I discovered this year.

I read these based on Malin’s reviews. I’m fairly new to urban fantasy and paranormal romance, being somewhat averse to cheese. For some reason, despite that Darkfever cover, Malin’s review convinced me to give these a try, and I’m really glad I did.

The series is set in modern-day Dublin, which due to its ancient Gaelic roots in fae magic, is kind of a “ground zero” for interactions between humans and the Fae. The heroine, MacKayla Lane, travels to Dublin with the initially simplistic idea of lighting a fire under the ass of the Dublin police, who had been previously unable to solve her sister Alina’s murder. MacKayla quickly learns that there is a lot more to Alina’s murder than she previously suspected. For one thing, she discovers that she is a sidhe-seer, or a human that can see the Fae, whereas other humans can only see the glamours that the Fae project in order to look human and blend in. Mac finds that she shared this ability with her late sister, and it was these very connections that got Alina killed.

Grappling with these revelations, Mac falls into an uneasy alliance with Jerico Barrons, the ruthless, enigmatic, and powerful owner of a Dublin bookstore. Together, they seek the Sinsar Dubh, a text about which Mac knows little to nothing, other than that the final voicemail she received from Alina implored her to locate it. Barrons has his own reasons for seeking the book, and though his motives are unclear, it is plain to Mac that she needs his help and protection if she is going to pursue her sister’s dying request.

Several other players are introduced: V’Lane, a Fae prince of the Light (Seelie) Court; Rowena, leader of a coven of other sidhe-seers; the Keltar, a clan of Druids; Dani, another sidhe-seer who grows a sisterly bond with Mac; Darroc, Alina’s former lover, and so on. With every book in the series, Mac encounters situations that force her to profoundly change. In Darkfever, she’s bubbly, naive, flippant, and astutely described by Barrons as a lamb to slaughter in the world of the Fae. With his help and her innate intelligence, she’s able to adapt, becoming quite the compelling and kick-ass heroine in the process. If you’re annoyed by her early on — DON’T WORRY. She gets so much better, and you’ll almost certainly end up liking and admiring her even by the end of the second book.

I’m leaving out a lot of detail, particularly regarding the later books, because I don’t want to reveal too much and spoil anything. I would be remiss if I didn’t give lip service to the dynamic between Mac and Barrons, which starts off similarly to how you would expect a lion to interact with a hyperactive chihuahua (Mac is the chihuahua.) Initially, it seems that the only reason Barrons even tolerates her is because she has a particular gift that is uniquely and massively helpful in finding the Sinsar Dubh.  These two have some pretty steamy sexual tension throughout the series that is pretty wicked hot. Barrons himself, I can barely describe. Malin may have said it best in her review — he’s the ultimate alpha and a quintessential bastard of literature, which in a romance or romance-adjacent novel is pretty much the pinnacle of sexiness. The combination of their explosive chemistry and the compelling story made these all-nighters for me — I couldn’t put them down. I guess this kind of stuff is more up my alley than I thought it was, because the series became an instant Cannonball favorite and I re-read several parts of every book before returning them to the library, then promptly went and bought them on Amazon. Highly recommended!

Book review: Nerve by Jeanne Ryan

Goodreads summary: “When Vee is picked to be a player in NERVE, an anonymous game of dares broadcast live online, she discovers that the game knows her. They tempt her with prizes taken from her ThisIsMe page and team her up with the perfect boy, sizzling-hot Ian. At first it’s exhilarating–Vee and Ian’s fans cheer them on to riskier dares with higher stakes. But the game takes a twisted turn when they’re directed to a secret location with five other players for the Grand Prize round. Suddenly they’re playing all or nothing, with their lives on the line. Just how far will Vee go before she loses NERVE?”

This was a pretty quick read and a rather fluffy one too. The book is set in our reality, in our time, and as such, initially the premise was intriguing. I definitely believed in the idea that such a game could exist in our time and that there would be tons of people out there that would play dares to an online audience in exchange for cash prizes. The Grand Prize round, though, seemed really farfetched to me, and as such the whole climax to the story was a yawn for me. On top of that, I didn’t really connect with any of the characters, so I didn’t really feel that invested in the “lives on the line” outcome.

The writing itself was fine, about average caliber for your typical YA novels these days. There is a prologue that felt weirdly tacked on to the beginning, and is only referenced in passing once during the rest of the book as a throwaway sentence. This was my only issue with the editing/technical side of the story.

Overall, I wasn’t super impressed with this one, but I think I may be too old for it. It’s possible that an actual teenager could relate to the characters better, and possibly believe more than I did that their peer group would willingly participate in things like the Grand Prize dare. With good YA, being slightly out of the age demographic doesn’t jar me, but here it did.