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17April
2016

how star wars saved xmas

maura @ 6:30 pm

I’ve long been convinced that my age cohort was born at the absolute best time to experience the Star Wars movies and fandom. I’d just turned 8 when the first movie was released. My dad took me and my sister (she was just over 3) to see it in what I remember being a big deal — I think we went to a biggish theater in Center City Philadelphia, and there were definitely long lines. It was amazing, of course, unlike anything I’d seen before (partially because many of the other space movies of the 1970s were too much for kids). I was 11 when Empire Strikes Back was released (and we were just about to move halfway across the country for my dad’s new job), arguably the best of the first 3 films (fight me). And I’d just turned 14 when Return of the Jedi came out (just as my family was getting ready to move back east).

I’d wager that’s pretty much the perfect age range for those movies — starting when I was old enough to understand (most of) what was going on and ending before the teen spirit fully took me over. It’s hard to overestimate how pervasive Star Wars was (and is) to nerds in my age group. I remember it being one of the first movies we rented when we first got a VCR in 1980, so my brother could finally see it (he’d been a toddler when it was in the theater). In college the campus movie theater showed all three and the theater was packed, all of us nerds reciting the best lines in unison.

When news of the 3 prequels broke we were grown-up nerds living in NYC, and like our other grown-up nerd friends we were pretty psyched. With a bunch of our pals we lined up to see the original (though enhanced/altered, sigh) trilogy at the amazing Ziegfeld Theater in Midtown Manhattan on its incredibly huge screen. Then Phantom Menace was released and, well, Jar Jar (sigh). By the time Attack of the Clones came out we had a little baby who was adorable yet not fond of sleeping, making it a challenge to see movies. Ditto for Revenge of the Sith (though by that time he was a nonsleeping preschooler). When he was old enough we showed him all 6 films, of course, and like other parents our age experienced the intense disappointment of his strong interest in Episodes 1-3 and repeated complaints about Episodes 4-6 (“this is so boring!”). Jar Jar and the fast cuts, that’s what the kids like (have we failed as parents?).

And that was about it for me, for a long time. I don’t think I saw Episodes 2-3 more than once; they were confusing and dull, Anakin was a whiny stalker, and I just couldn’t get into it. The kid watched the animated Clone Wars series for a while which I admit did seem better, especially since there was a female main character in the Jedi trainee Ahsoka. But I still found it confusing and didn’t watch much.

I belabor all of this history as context. When it was announced that Disney bought the Star Wars franchise and JJ Abrams would direct a new movie, I thought “meh.” I’d see stuff on Twitter occasionally and yeah, it was cool to see that photo of the cast beginning readings — I was pleased to see a person of color *and* another woman (also: Carrie Fisher 4eva). But the movie just wasn’t on my radar, for the most part, not something I was planning to see as soon as it was released. And then, out of nowhere, the kid up and got obsessed. I blame the internet (obvs). He started watching Clone Wars again and insisted that he really really really wanted to see the movie and, moreover, could we please watch Episodes 1-6 before the new one? After some Netflix scrambling we did, though I admit I mostly tuned out of the early ones (again).

And so it was on December 25, 2015, that we took the train into Manhattan for a dinner of Chinese food (yum, dumplings) followed by a trip to the Ziegfeld Theater to see The Force Awakens. I still hadn’t done much reading about it and was still a bit “meh,” even as we stood on line and took our seats.

It’s corny beyond belief, but I was completely, utterly blown away. Daisy Ridley as Rey and John Boyega (who was terrific in Attack the Block) as Finn were uh-may-zing; the fan service of General (yessss!) Leia Organa and Han Solo was sweet; the details — most especially the early scenes with Rey scavenging and living on Jakku, and of course with Rey and Finn on the Millennium Falcon — impeccable. I bought my 10 yr old niece the Lego Rey’s speeder set for her birthday and almost, almost had to keep it for myself; I’m considering buying the DVD of Force Awakens, too (something I pretty much never ever do).

I was also relieved beyond belief that the movie was so good (and the dumplings, too). Last xmas was the first anniversary of my mother-in-law’s death, and the month before that, the first anniversary of our good friend’s death. We saw many, many nerd movies at the Ziegfeld with our friend in the 23 years we’d been friends, and most certainly would have geeked out on Force Awakens with her. We almost always visited (or traveled with) my mother-in-law at xmas. We didn’t have any travel plans or visitors for xmas last year, and as the date approached I was pretty nervous about how we’d all feel on that day, whether we could push back on the weight of it all even if only for just a few hours. And then Poe sent BB-8 off with the plans and Finn stole a TIE fighter and Rey ate that magical puffy bread and it was awesome.

les tags: , ,
26April
2015

you left your love letter incomplete

maura @ 9:57 pm

We are all having a bit of an obsession here lately in casa mauraweb over Nekoatsume, which Jonathan discovered via Boing Boing last week. It’s a game in which you collect cats. Sort of a loose definition of “game,” really — it’s kind of like Pokemon without the fighting, or like those Tamagochi that you had to take care of intermittently all day.

It’s a cute little cartoony game in which you have a yard outside of a house and try to attract cats with toys and food. Capitalism is the rule — the better stuff you have, the more cats swing by to play with your toys and eat your food. Then the cats pay you in silver fish and gold fish which you can use to buy more toys and food. Typing it all out here now I’m reminded of the Sims — why have the simple cardboard box when you can have the fancy cardboard house?! It’s hilarious because all of the stuff to buy is cat stuff: balls to play with, pillows to sit on, paper bags or cardboard tubes to stuff yrself in (see photo below). Good times.

Right now we’re all playing on the free mode which basically means that we wait to earn enough fish to get more stuff. I’m jonesing the most for an extra room, because the yard only holds 5 small toys or 3 small 1 big, so you max out on what you can have out for the kittehs to play with. Of course there’s leveling up too — if a kitteh visits you enough times she brings you a present! You can take pictures of the cats too, natch. They are really, really cute, especially when they’re scratching on the scratching pad or jumping to get the butterfly toy.

I don’t want to buy more fish, which of course you can use real money to do (duh, it’s the internet). But I reeeeeeeeally want an extra room.

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les tags: , ,
27December
2013

keep feeling like a baby chicken

maura @ 9:26 pm

So before you’re all “OMG two posts in one day” I should probably mention that I wrote that last post last night, though wasn’t able to post it until this morning because we didn’t have internet at the neighbors’ apartment where we were staying. This year we’re having a mostly home-based holiday season — though we did travel to exchange gifts with some of my family before xmas, it was a quick trip of only 42 hours duration. Now we have family visiting and took advantage of our neighbors’ generosity to use their place as an extra sleeping space while they’re out of town. It’s nice to travel at xmas though it’s nice to be home, too, with a tree and the kitties.

I recently read two novels in a row about twins, each told from the perspective of one of the twins, which when added to the season has me thinking much more about family than usual. The books were great. First was Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, about twin girls in Nebraska who write Harry Potter-esque fan fiction and the events of their first year away at college. It was a fun read: the characters were both super likable and since I spend lots of my research and scholarly time thinking about the academic culture of college students it was also interesting from an ethnographic perspective. (Is there a term for ethnographic fiction? Is all fiction ethnographic?)

I was particularly entranced by one scene in which the main character is accused of plagiarism by her English prof when she submits a fic for a creative writing assignment. I scanned those few pages from the book and plan to ask my students to read the excerpt when I next teach our library’s research and documentation course. Which is nerdily exciting — we talk a lot about plagiarism and remix culture and intellectual property, and I’ll be interested to see what the students make of the reading. Plus it’s only 4 pages which is absolutely fair use, so I can post the PDF of the scan on our course website.

Next (and completely accidentally re: the twin theme) I read Sisterland by Curtis Sittenfeld. I’ve never read any of her books before — the cover of Prep, her first novel, completely turned me off and she fell off my radar after that. But reading Jenna’s review of Sisterland piqued my interest, and since it was available as an ebook and I didn’t have any other ebooks checked out it seemed like a good call (I like to have an ebook on my phone if possible, just in case I ever get stuck someplace with nothing to read). And it was! Like Jenna, I found the main characters unsympathetic, but the story was well-paced and interesting.

These twins are adult women who are both somewhat psychic, though one has suppressed her ability. The narrative of the book is framed by an event that happens early on, when the more-psychic sister predicts that an earthquake will strike St. Louis, where the book takes place. The bulk of the book (which is told by the less-psychic sister) recounts the story of what happens with the sisters and their lives and families between the time of the prediction and the date on which the earthquake is predicted to happen. There’s lots of flashbacks to the twins’ childhood and early adult years, and lots of discussion of their ESP and the circumstances under which they’ve used it. What I liked best is that even though the psychic powers lend the book a vaguely magical tone, most of the issues with which the characters grapple are pretty much just normal, everyday problems.

In both books the twin sisters are identical yet surprisingly different, with a relationship at least as complex as that between non-twin siblings. And I guess that’s what made me start thinking about my family. I love my family, though I’m often quite baffled when I think of us. While my nuclear family members — my parents and my younger sister and brother — are (of course!) related and have much in common, we are also each very different. And we all continue to change as we age, which along with partnering and childrearing adds other wrinkles (ha!). My parents are long divorced and we all mostly live far apart, and I wish we saw everyone more often. But I sometimes find myself torn: I don’t want to leave New York to live in one of the places they live, but living here makes it difficult for folks to visit us because NYC apts aren’t great for hosting sleepover visitors. And I wonder: are we all so different because we live in different places? Or do we live in different places because we are all so different?

les tags: , ,
7April
2013

spring break index

maura @ 10:23 pm

Days Gus had off school for Spring Break: 7 weekdays
Days I had off work for Spring Break: 2 vacation days taken

States or state-like entities visited: 3 (Delaware, Washington DC, and New York)
States driven through in transit: 2 (New Jersey, Maryland)

Cousins who were sick during our visit: 1.5 (out of 5)
Immediate family who got sick: 0 (incroyable!)

Plastic eggs filled by me and Jonathan playing the role of the Easter Bunny: 40
Peeps microwaved: 0 (they were chocolate-dipped, too messy)

People sleeping in my mom’s extra bedroom the one night we allowed a sleepover: 4
Times Gus and his cousin woke up (and woke us up): too many to count

Inches of snow predicted for the day we drove from DE to DC: 6
Inches achieved: 4ish in DE, less as we got there, just raining in DC

Days I attended the US Dept of Education’s Institutional Services grants Project Directors’ Conference: 2.5
Times I walked through Dupont Circle: 7
Times the Dupont Circles’ “Everywhere Girl” was in my head as I walked through Dupont Circle: 7

Museums visited by Gus and Jonathan: 4 (Postal Museum, Museum of Natural History, Spy Museum, National Zoo)
Museums visited by me: 2 (Postal Museum, National Zoo)

Sleepy pandas spotted at the zoo: 1, snoozing mostly behind a log
Spazzy Asian short-clawed otters spotted at the zoo: about 12 (OMG so cute and funny!)

Books read by a 6th grader during the break: 2 (Ender’s Game and Animal Farm)
Hours of 6th grade homework that awaited us upon return from parts south: approximately 8
Days until the standardized tests are over: 19

Most surprising (in a nice way) part of the break: watching Adventure Time *live* in the hotel in DC! Very fun.

17August
2011

give a little whistle

maura @ 11:44 am

I don’t know how we made it this far without Gus seeing Pinocchio, but last night when the video went on he was rapt. It’s been ages since I’ve seen that movie and I’d forgotten how weird it is. IMDB tells me that the movie came out in 1940 which seems about right. The blue fairy has that old-fashioned animated look the way the earlier Disney movies all do.

The plot is just, well, bizarre to today’s kids. I’ve not read the fairy tale in ages so not sure how much of the movie is artistic license. But Pleasure Island? So random! All were aghast at the kids smoking cigars. But Gus wondered what was bad, exactly, about playing pool? He’s been to a few birthday parties at a videogames + billiards place in our neighborhood. And the peals, absolute peals of laughter when the boys get turned into jackasses, and on hearing the word jackass repeated several times. Hilarity for the 9 year old set, for sure (though the 3 1/2 yr old was a bit confused).

Gus was adamant that he would never go to Pleasure Island, no matter how much free root beer was promised. But I wonder whether the moral of the story is even understandable to kids today under all of last century’s trappings. If you skip school you’ll have to sing and dance at the theater and then sleep in a cage? If you get on the boat with the creepy old men and go to the island where you can act naughty all day you’ll turn into a donkey and go work in the salt mines? “Don’t they get salt from the ocean?” asks Gus.

But I guess it *is* handy to know that you can light a fire to escape from a whale’s belly.