Monday, April 17, 2017

Enchanted by Master Enchanters

As I mentioned in my last post, one of my plans to make sure my readers have lots to enjoy is that I plan to re-post content from my articles on The Silver Petticoat Review. Based on that you'd think all would be well, but I find that I have a small dilemma. I've been writing at SPR for over a year now, so there's a lot to share.

I began to wonder. Should I start from the beginning and go from there? Should I start from the latest ones? Should I post at anniversaries or just whatever I want at the time. I still haven't quite decided, but I think I might just let my posts fall organically.

Case in point is today's spotlight of a much beloved favourite. I've posted about Diana Wynne Jones here before, expounding on at my astonishment at her genius. I felt that the fantasy world had lost a treasure when she died.

It's not surprising that one of my SPR articles focused on one of the best characters she created. Like Jones, Chrestomanci is a powerful and skilled magic worker who conjures up your respect and admiration.  I surprised myself though to find that my article coincidentally appeared not long after the anniversary of her death this year. That might be a good sign of my future timing as I continue to re-share my articles.

When I first read Jones' Charmed Life many years ago I found it to be surprising, fascinating and amazingly well plotted, and my opinion hasn't changed much. I read more of Jones' books in the years that followed my first introduction to her, and for a long time I wasn't sure how I felt about her as a writer in general. I knew she was brilliant, but I wasn't sure if I was in love with her overall work, but I've since come around completely. I don't love every single one of her books, but I've come to appreciate the inventiveness of her oeuvre even in the books that I feel ambivalent about.

I feel no ambivalence when it comes to Chrestomanci though. It's a terrible shame that there will be no more stories of him to come. I think anyone who loves fantasy should give the Chrestomanci books a try.

As I said in my article
"One of her greatest creations in her extensive bibliography is the nine-lived enchanter Chrestomanci. Her chronicles of this character went on for several full-length books and short stories.  She not only developed Chrestomanci but introduced many more complex and unforgettable characters who play out Jones’ trademark twisty and intricate plots. As you fall into the creations of Diana Wynne Jones, be assured that you’re in for an amazing odyssey. The Chrestomanci stories are some of the best places to discover her own form of enchantment."
Read my full thoughts in  YA Book Review: Become Enchanted by The Chronicles of Chrestomanci by Diana Wynne Jones
The book that started it all for me - Charmed Life


Friday, April 7, 2017

Guess who?

My friends....I have returned.

I come back to you now at the turn of the tide...what'd I miss?

Recall if you will that scene in The Two Towers when Gandalf (now Gandalf the White thank you very much) revealed himself to the remaining members of the fellowship. Do you remember that exact moment when the fear and despair and hopelessness of the breaking of the fellowship was relieved by the return of a friend once thought lost forever?

Well...this isn't quite like that, I suspect I'm more akin to Bilbo Baggins than the mighty Gandalf, but I have come back to my little hobbit hole of a blog, and I am hoping to do some cleaning up and making it right again.

Fortunately it's still here waiting patiently. Fortunatrly during my travels away I haven't actually stopped writing about the things I enjoy and which inspire me. As usual, I could probably do with writing a lot more, but I have quite a bit to share, so soon I will be able to welcome you back for regular visits.

I started by choosing a new look for the blog. I find it fits my aesthetic quite well. Let me know what you think.

I've also been doing quite a bit of writing for a blog magazine called The Silver Petticoat Review. It's a lovely place where I continually find articles and topics about books and movies which interest me. (They may interest you as well, so I encourage you to have a look.) I write quite regularly for them, and as part of my routine posts, I'll be linking my articles back here. So look out for those.

I've also learned quite a lot from my journey away, so hopefully expect more posts with a different look and feel - some shorter - some with varying formats, interesting videos etc but with the same theme we all love still running through it. I'm also going to try and feature interesting content from other blogs. I'd love to feature articles from other Caribbean bloggers interested in books and movies, so if you're one such, please hail me, so we can start sharing all the great stuff we're creating.

I also hope to start posting more about writing, writing techniques, the writing journey, that sort of thing. More on that soon. I might have a surprise for you.

So until later friends, I welcome you back to my blog as meet once more at these crossroads. To start the conversation going, comment and let me know which blogs, tumblrs, blogazines etc you like. Doesn't matter what topic though I'm particularly interested in ones with similar themes to mind. Be generous and share!

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Film Festival Recap: Shaun the Sheep : The Movie

If you know anything at all about Aardman Animations' work, you will know that they are as reliable as Pixar in creating quality stuff, so I didn't have much apprehension when I went to see Shaun the Sheep: The Movie at the European Film Festival this year. I knew I was probably going to enjoy it.

Aardman Animations is behind the characters Wallace and Grommit who are charming, but I don't love them as much as I do the characters of the Mossy Bottom Farm crew - a community of sheep, a responsible dog, some piggish pigs and a slightly dim witted farmer. All are designed in the signature fashion of this company. The characters are awkward, long legged creatures with little white teeth and awkward smiles. Shaun is a very intelligent sheep who is the natural leader of the flock as the rest are far more sheep-like in their behaviour than him. His endless cleverness is endearing. Shaun's cousin Timmy, a little lamb, had his own TV show, featuring his adventures in pre school.  That show gave my family continuous delight, so I was inclined to love the whole sheep family and this movie, and thanks to the good work of Aardman Animations, this was very easy to do.

In the movie, all Shaun wants is a change from the dull monotony of his life which follows the exact pattern you'd expect of a flock, but this bores Shaun immensely. He comes up with his first ingenious plan to get the farmer out of the way, so they can all have a holiday, but a series of unforeseen and convenient accidents catapults them into an adventure which they did not count on and which proves to be much more stressful for Shaun. Very stressful indeed. If I were Shaun, I'd want a holiday by the time the adventure finally comes to an end.

The story is inventive and cleverly executed as Shaun and the flock try to navigate the city to find the farmer and avoid an insane (no other way to describe him) animal control officer. Whenever Shaun comes up with a plan, I found myself waiting in anticipation to see what this clever sheep had come up with next. After seeing this movie, I think it's safe to say that I feel the same way about the Aardman Animations team. They've created a madcap story which had me laughing hard and long, and they put together clever scenarios which come together into an amazing, delightful fabric of adventure, ingenuity and family.  The last, by the way, inspires some poignant moments which will surely pluck at your emotions. As with everything else it is done exceptionally well.

I don't bother much with whether a movie is meant for children or not. I'm more concerned with whether it's good or not, and this is a great one. If the audience for this movie is a deal breaker for you though, be assured that this is a movie that will appeal to young and old alike. Don't hesitate. You won't regret it.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

European Film Festival Recap 2015 : Gone Too Far

Every year I look forward to the annual European Film Festival here in Trinidad with great anticipation. The festival showcases films from Europe and is organized by the EU Member States with diplomatic missions in Trinidad and Tobago. It's an opportunity to see lots of movies which might not otherwise come here. Many of these are not the mainstream ones that tend to come to Trinidad as very, very few movies in limited release elsewhere ever reach this country.

They are often quirky, strange, confusing or disturbing and almost all are extremely memorable. This year I think I enjoyed all of the four movies I saw to a certain degree which doesn't always happen. I'll do a recap of each of them over a series of posts starting with....

Gone Too Far

There's something I like about movies which condense all of the story within a short period of time.
Something about the fact that so much happens and changes in such a short while tends to delight me. Gone Too Far takes place over a Saturday afternoon when British teenager Yemi sets out to buy ochroes for his mother with his brother Ikudaysi . Yemi's family is from Nigeria, and his brother has only just arrived - hardly stepped out of the taxi from the airport in fact - before their adventures begin. 

Yemi is understandably preoccupied with being a British high school student, rapping to his favourite music, pursuing the beautiful, shallow, obnoxious, brash Armani and being accepted by his peers. His brother appears and seems considerably older and is unapologetically Nigerian. From the moment Yemi sees him with his feet ensconced in sandals and socks coming out of the taxi, he is appalled, and truly his brother is a force of destruction to a young man's self esteem. As they wander around what their South London neighbourhood, they encounter Armani, her on again/off again/on again boyfriend who wants Yemi to stay away from her and is willing to use violence to make sure he gets the message and various other neighbourhood characters. There are also stinging nettles, vicious dogs and obnoxious little children. The quest for the ochroes becomes secondary despite the frequent calls from their mother trying to find out what is taking so long. 

Everyone crosses each other's paths over and over again, so when I discovered that this is adapted from a play I was not surprised as it has the feel of characters appearing and disappearing from the stage as their scenes come up.

In the background of all the conflict is the contempt many of the young people have for African people and their often hilarious ignorance of African culture. Yemi and his brother clash because of his distress and embarrassment while Ikudaysi is shocked and saddened that his brother seems to be ashamed of who he is. By nightfall by the time the wanderers find their way home, there are revelations all around. 

This movie was fun and funny. It's also very well directed by a woman, Destiny Ekaragha, who is apparently only the third black female director to have directed a feature length film that was given theatrical distribution in the UK, so well done to her! I am sure anyone who is familiar with this type of neighbourhood in London would recognize the mix of cultures, and they'd probably appreciate it more than some of the characters do.I found it a fascinating look into a community I am not familiar with. There is a very Caribbean feel to the area and the family life as well which I am sure would appeal very much to our local audience. Oh and beware if you're not familiar with the accents of young people in London because it will sometimes require a lot of attention to decipher what they're saying before you get used to the rhythms of it. It's well worth it though, so see this if you can, wherever you're from. 

Check out the trailer for the film here. 

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

An Extraordinarily Good Tale about An Ordinary Boy

I suppose I should make a confession from early on about a shameful omission in my reading list past. Let's not have any dark secrets. Let's bring it out in the open: I have not read a lot of books by Caribbean authors! There I said it.

In recent years I've promised myself that I would try and change that, but I can't say I have made much progress. However life seems to have been putting more opportunities in my lap to make a move for change. I have a bit more free time these days for one. Our next book club discussion* will be on the infamous V.S. Naipaul. I keep hearing mention of various books by Caribbean authors at meetings for the Writer's Union of Trinidad and Tobago ** as well. (If anyone has recommendations of good Caribbean authors, let us know.) On top of that at a recent meeting Mrs Marsha Gomes, Director/Founder of the Caribbean Books Foundation handed me a copy of a free copy of the YA novel All Over Again by Jamaican author A-dziko Simba Gegele and asked me to write a review. I could never say no to a free book of course, and the description on the back of the slim volume caught my eye, so I was happy to take a look. 

While I've read so few books by Caribbean authors, I can guarantee you that I've read even fewer YA books by Caribbean authors. If this is a sample of the type of YA book which comes out of the region, I think we are progressing nicely in the genre. All Over Again is a fun coming of age story about a young boy growing up in Jamaica with his mother, father, grandfather and troublesome younger sister Mary Janga. He is the most ordinary of ordinary boys preoccupied with his television shows, football, his friends and the unfairness of life where you have to deal with your annoying little sister. It is this simple landscape which makes the narrator so relatable. The magic is added with the lyrical language which makes you feel as if you're reading a poem with the use of imagery and word repetition which invokes perfect mental pictures like this passage where the narrator frets about having to attend his grandfather's birthday party. 

"So what kind of party will this be?A old party. A old, old party for old, old peopleA old people party with old, old people sitting on chairs in their good clothes listening to your father's old, old 45s"

Who among us can claim to not know exactly what he is talking about? It is Gegele's ability to draw the reader into the feelings of the main character which brings the our complete sympathy to this narrative about an ordinary boy. We are right there with him through his hilarious adventures (like when his scary opponent in an arm wrestling competition seems to have grown to monstrous proportions in a few hours) and his poignant ones (when his favourite cousin moves away). 

The resulting tale is one that can appeal to adults and young people alike, and one which I highly recommend as an enjoyable and satisfying read. 

(Now I'm on a roll of discovering Caribbean authors, I want to keep going. If anyone has any recommendations of good ones, please let me know in the comments.)

Disclaimer: I was given this book by Caribbean Books Foundation in exchange for an honest review. 

*I've helped start a book club! I hope to incorporate it in my blog posts sometime soon.
** I've started attending Writers Union of Trinidad and Tobago meetings as well! I hope they will help motivate my writing

Friday, April 10, 2015

My Thoughts On The Movies I've Seen So Far This Year.....

(WARNING: Beware of many, many spoilers ahead. I don't do a recap of the plot, but I talk a lot about major plot points in detail. Each section for each movie has a title, so I suggest you skip a write up if you don't want to be spoiled.)

Can you imagine the first quarter of 2015 has almost ended!Can you believe it? It doesn't seem that long ago that 2015 was lurking around the corner, but looks it's already been time enough for New Year's resolutions to have drifted out of recent memory. I do recall though that once again I resolved to keep track of all of the movies I see this year. I've neglected that resolution as I have done in year's past, but I am giving it another try. I want to be able to give an overview of everything I've read and seen in 2015. So here's a run down of what I've seen so far.

So much care on the shoulders of one humble hobbit. 

The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies

From early on in this movie series, I quickly realized that The Hobbit movies would not leave me with the same sense of awe as the Lord of the Rings movies. I don't want to be unfair to Peter Jackson here. He did such an amazing job with those three movies that it seems too much to ask him to top that astonishing experience. I know....but we couldn't help it though! "In Peter We Trust" and I still do to a certain extent. I expect a love of the source material, a commitment to majestic, sprawling battles and moments when I hold my breath, and these films did feature those aspects. Where production went wrong I think is when the decision was made to spread the book over three films. My main problem was that I could feel scenes being unnecessarily drawn out. Amazing things were happening, but sometimes I didn't need them as much as I needed the story to move on. I suppose that this was not Peter Jackson's decision, but it took it's toll out on the story.

All that said, Battle of the Five Armies had less of a long winded feel than the other movies. I didn't feel that all of the battles were dragged out except of course for Thorin's battle at the end which received only a few lines in the book and which took up quite a lot of time in the same style.

However I felt invested in the characters despite their overly lengthy adventure, partly because most of them are old favourites from the book and partly because they are all played so well. Martin Freeman is vulnerable and sturdy and practical, an excellent Bilbo Baggins. The characters of Gandalf and Thranduil are perfect. We see more of Thranduil than we do in the books, and this is one welcome extension for me. The dwarves are each, one and all, wonderful and enough attention is paid to the most interesting ones. A great deal of fuss has been made on the internet because of the addition of the elf Tauriel who is not a Tolkien character, and though I don't find her absolutely necessary, I like her contribution to the tale well enough. Her love story may be tacked on, but I felt for her despite myself. As Thorin Oakenshield, Richard Armitage is excellent as usual, adding to and enhancing our impressions of Thorin from the book, and the emphasis on his relationship with his nephews is the sort or of interaction which is carefully structured to destroy me emotionally.

I will add that the comic relief in this movie is the best in the series, but not overdone, so I think I will continue to trust in Peter Jackson. Still contemplating whether to buy the inevitable extended editions. I don't need longer battles, but more good character interactions would be much appreciated. I'm tempted.....

The Wedding Ringer

I think Kevin Hart's stand up is funny. I've watched a few minutes of his show "The Real Husbands of Hollywood" and thought it was okay, but that somehow did not fill me with anticipation of seeing his new film The Wedding Ringer, but I found myself watching it nonetheless with the BFFF. As usual the company was excellent, the film though was only ok.

When I described it afterward to anyone, I kept talking about Kevin Hart's wigs which were amusing enough but understandably are a flimsy foundation for comedy. The plot is similarly shaky. The lead character realizes that he does not have many male friends and has no one willing to be his best man, and for some reason, he becomes incredibly stressed and cannot bear to let his new family know. While this can be a bit embarrassing, what follows is so much more stressful, embarrassing and expensive, I'd imagine it would cure anyone of wanting to pretend he has a best man. Somehow Kevin Hart's character makes a lucrative living off of pretending to be the best man of anyone in similar situations. The insane (sometimes gross) scenarios follow one after the other and somehow the two bond over them and of course the plot has to throw in one of the tropes which isstarting to tire me out the most. How many times will we see a guy with a woman who he liked for some reason before the story began, but later realizes is crazy? There were no signs of this before? Come on!

I can say that the movie I Love You Man has a similar plot minus some of the most ridiculous contrivances AND has the beautiful Paul Rudd in it too. Watch that movie instead citizens! Hie thee to that . You won't be disappointed.

Kingsman: The Secret Service

I think it's impossible to keep up with all of the books and comic books which have been turned into movies. Kingsman: The Secret Service turned out to be loosely based on a comic book. I can't fault filmmakers for mining this resource. The ideas that arise from these books bring a freshness to the screen. The result is that Kingsman is a SO much fun though I had some problems with it which I will touch on shortly but first:

The FUN Stuff

You really can't lose by having Colin Firth being suave and cool and a little edgy in a perfectly tailored suit.  I loved the attention to clothes and sophisticated gentlemanly manners in the film and newcomer Taron Egerton is adorable as a cheeky, rough around the edges type. Colin Firth transforms him into a very dapper looking gent by the end, but it's lovely to see the adorable rougher side showing through the polish. I have no issues with Taron at all. He needs to be in more movies. Or rather I need to see him in more movies. Apparently he will be in Legend with Tom Hardy soon, so I will probably be getting my wish.

Definitely part of the FUN stuff
The other standout character in this is Samuel L. Jackson who plays a Bill Gates - like visionary named Valentine with endless quantities of money at his disposal and big, brilliant ideas. Too bad these ideas are also psychotic! Kingsman pays homage to James Bond movies a lot as you may have guessed, so Valentine is a villain with odd quirks. What's delightful is that the quirks are very uncool, so he has a speech impediment, has an embarrassing taste in clothes, and he gets nauseated at the sight of blood - even though his plan promises that there will be copious amounts of it spilling everywhere before he's done.

His hench woman Gazelle is quite unique in that she's an amazing, intimidating, graceful physical weapon, but she isn't sexualized. She has an important part to play and watching her at work is a treat. As henchmen go, Valentine shows his smarts in choosing her.

The action in this movie is thrilling and over the top as suits this type of film. It starts to get too gory for me at some points though and this leads me to

The BITTER Stuff i.e. the things that left a bad taste in my mouth

I'm not always the best person to review an action film because I don't have a deep love for extreme violence. Sometimes this film crossed the line for me, but I think it went past my usual tolerance. It ended up being too gross to be fun, and at one point crossed a moral line which I couldn't tolerate. The scene in the church is highly memorable, and I thought pretty unnecessary. I found it interesting that director Matthew Vaughn made a point of making the church goers the vilest people he could imagine, made sure there were no children in the scene, then felt it was safe to allow Colin Firth's character Galahad go to town on them all in graphic and lengthy detail. That didn't work for me. I didn't think that loathsomeness of the church goers erased the fact that Galahad basically killed a place full of civilians - unpleasant civilians yes - but that's not usually allowed as an excuse for mass murder. I won't say that the scene wasn't important to the plot, but the movie could have easily continued without us having to see the whole massacre, but that was supposed to be part of all the fun I think.

I am not sure it was a cop out or not to avoid allowing Galahad the opportunity to process what happened. As a man of honour would he have been able to live with what he had done? But in a film like this, there doesn't seem to be any room for that kind of deep thought, so perhaps Vaughn did us a favour by not trying to deal with the aftermath as it could only have done in a superficial manner. I suspect most action fans would argue that I'm thinking too much about a film that's not to be taken seriously, but that's what a review is for and I assume why you're reading this, so you can think a little more about the movie than merely saying, "That was cool" or "That sucked".

The movie's treatment of women was not spectacular though there were some high points. Lancelot was the only important girl character, and she was given an important part, but I felt that she was removed from the main action. I would have liked to see her with more to do. The infamous last scene with the Duchess character bothered me rather (was she a Duchess? I can't remember, and I'm having trouble searching in the right places to find out). She was a surprisingly strong character who was suddenly reduced to the sexual reward of the main character. I had actually thought she was going to have a more interesting part of play, and the whole thing felt rather jarring and unnecessary. I've seen people compare it to how women throw themselves at James Bond in Bond movies, but I still thought it didn't work well. If you can come up with a scene like this that is actually less subtle than the "un-subtle" Bond movies, you've accomplished quite a feat, but I didn't appreciate it.

And did anyone else keep cringing a bit when Eggsy keeps finding his mother in a disturbing domestic violence scenario but keeps walking off and leaving her alone with the abuser for weeks at a time? We know he's really concerned about her, but it doesn't seem to fit with his reactions.

Despite all this I'd love to watch more about this unlikely secret service. As of now, I don't know if the movie sparked enough interest for this. We shall have to see.

Jupiter Ascending

Everything is beautiful. 
I got the impression that this movie received a lot of snarky comments from critics when it came out. I saw a title for a review on it which basically said that it was very bad, but you should go see it anyway to laugh at it. I have an odd quirk in me: I am quite capable of being snarky myself, but when I feel a kindly inclination toward something, I start to feel defensive when I feel people are punching it when it's down, and I felt very kindly inclined to Jupiter Ascending well before I saw it.

For some reason, the moment I heard about this movie, I had been dying to see it. Maybe there's something in fantasy movies about women coming into their own which appeals to me. I don't know. Something deep inside of me was stirred, and I knew I'd see this movie no matter what. So I guess that means that I was prejudiced in its favour before I even saw it, so keep that in mind as you read on.

There's a lot that is not perfect about this movie, but it didn't overshadow my interest in it. Mila Kunis could have done a better job, but I didn't expect a lot from her, so what I saw was sufficient. I cannot dislike Channing Tatum in anything, and in the more intimate scenes, I felt the pathos of his character. I could have done with more of that. The only character I thought bordered on the annoying was Eddie Redmayne who we can all agree was demented and strange,

Besides this, I found myself interested in this beautiful movie, and make no mistake, this movie is truly beautiful! I was just enthralled by the images of ships coasting through fantastic landscapes of stars. I loved Jupiter's costumes. I loved the unexpected beauty of scenes on earth: a garden, a chase scene over a brightly lit city. I couldn't stop looking at everything.

And I was pulled into a world of military angels, of warring intergalactic families, of hybrids, of an immigrant family, of insane, funny and familiar bureaucracy, of flying over earthly cities and of a child of immigrants born under the stars with country to call her own, and I wanted to know more. I wanted to explore this mythos more thoroughly, and despite the difficulties which critics have pinpointed and which I saw myself, I was drawn in.

I wish the movie was greater, so the film makers would feel moved to do something more with it, to tell us more stories about it. I thought there was so much more that needed to be explored. I wanted to know more about the bounty hunters, about the history of this strange and deadly family, about what will become of earth and the other planets under their control and what will become of Jupiter and her beautiful, scarred body guard. Maybe someone will write a graphic novel about it. I would have to have it. I know at least it would be gorgeous.


Cinderella is another appealing looking movie though not as unforgettable in this sense as Jupiter Ascending. If I have to tell you the story at this point, I would be even more saddened than I am at present at people's lack of literary IQ. I'll just assume you have an inkling of the tale and move on.

This movie was directed by Kenneth Branagh, who I have raved about in previous posts, so once more you know where my prejudices lie. I would rather that he spend his time directing more Shakespeare adaptations, but he and I have the sort of relationship where if he wants to do something I trust in him and let him do what he likes whether it's film noir or Thor.

Instead of disowning the worldview of their previous creations, Disney continues to embrace them but they seem to be using their live action tales to put a more modern spin on their stories. At least that's what I heard they did with Maleficent though I admit I didn't see that movie. I think that's a great idea and could work really well if they wish to continue, and I have no doubt they will: Cinderella made a lot of money

The Cinderella character here is a good girl but a bit more defiant and outspoken than her previous Disney version. She meets the prince early on, so that problematic love at first sight angle is dissolved (though if you think about it, she still doesn't know that much about him before the love declarations are made). He asks her if she will have his hand instead of assuming she will have him, though I never had a problem with that before. After all, It seems that marriage is what they both want in the story. What I like though is that the feminist angle is pretty seamless to the story. If you haven't realized from my other writings, I am a feminist, but I sometimes find it distracting when a story seems to hold up certain aspects and try to scream, "Look kids we're all about equality and strong women. Look! Look!" I think I can recognize it without it being awkwardly shown to me, and I think Cinderella did a good job of just letting it be comfortably and organically part of the story.

The villains were good in this as well. Cate Blanchett is perfect as always, and I think she manages to outshine poor Cinderella with her wardrobe. Rather unfair of course because no one wants to buy Cindy anything, so she couldn't show off her rich fabrics and colours and impeccable taste even if she wanted to. Still Blanchett is not only gorgeous to look at but she manages to be deliciously evil without being over the top, and she had her moment when you see that she's not only delighting in degrading her perfect step daughter, but she truly feels for her own two despite their faults that grate on her. We see also that she loved her first husband and was lost when he passed away, leaving her to try to make a life with someone she did not love. Of course we can sympathize with that dear Step Mother, if only you did not have to take it out on Cinderella. I enjoyed the step sisters enough to wish we saw even more of their awfulness, but they were very good in their scenes.  Lily James is also sweet and likeable as Cinderella herself and does a good job of portraying Cinderella's own mother's advice of being brave and being kind which I think is going to be the official motto of the Disney princess club from now on, and I don't think anyone could complain about that.

However, despite all the good things about this, I can't help but think that this movie doesn't have a lot of surprises to it. Of course plot twists in this type of story is unlikely and not really wanted, but other versions have managed to enrich the story in various ways. For example, I don't love Ever After -sacrilegious I know - but it manages that quite well, and though I have not seen the version of Cinderella with Brandy and Whitney Houston for a long time, and I don't remember all the details, I am left with the impression that it was the more enjoyable movie with richer characters. If I get a chance to watch it, and I find that time has changed my mind about it, I'll be sure to recant.

So that's what I've seen so far. And there's lots more to come. Movie season has begun! Feel free to comment below with your thoughts about these movies or let me know which ones you've seen so far and enjoyed.....

Saturday, October 18, 2014

I Love My Growing Nerd-Family

The other day on Facebook I was half jokingly lamenting that I had no one to join me in ranting/raving/obsessing about my current nerdy interest. A Facebook friend took it upon herself to explain to me that there were few people of colour with interests in that area, and I was briefly smothered because I really don't have a lot of people in my everyday life who are interested in the same topics which interest me. By that I mean people who I have met in person at one time or the other and who I talk to regularly. The one guy who talked to me about the latest Marvel movies left my office. If I mentioned literary vlogs to most close friends, I can imagine the confused looks. For awhile I was reading a book and discussing it with a friend- who is hundreds of miles away in England. There's no easy way for me to find a live physical reading group anywhere near me.

So my lively ranting was smothered a bit from this well meaning commenter who was trying to teach me a valuable lesson, but as usually happens, upon reflecting upon her chastening words, I realized later on that I had the perfect come back for her because she is completely wrong about the idea that people of colour have no interest in nerdy things. 

Don't love the word, but I love the concept. 
Of course defining nerdiness is a difficult and elusive task. (Don't even get me started on the real or imaginary differentiation between the "nerd" and the "geek"). I've done some light research and combined with my own observations, I'd say nerdiness tends to be the type of concept that you know when you see it. However for the purpose of this blog, I'd say a nerd tends to be a person who has an in-depth knowledge on certain topics. Sometimes these topics are intellectual, but they are often not, but a need to learn and to be an expert in the topic is always evident. There are other traits which sometimes go with the nerd though they are not universal of course. One twitter follower who responded to my questions i.e.  what makes someone a "nerd"? What type of person makes that word come to mind? replied  "There's a curiosity/willingness to learn about new things" (Thanks ) Social awkwardness seems to be the trait most stereotypical nerds on televison share. I'll go with my highlighted definition for now. 

I knew that the perception that they were no non-white nerds out there was wrong. It could not be when my own mother read comics when she was younger (though she ended up lending them away). I could not be mistaken because I remembered the fact that my classes in my elite secondary school had quite a few women of colour in the top percentile in the country. We had people excelling in every school subject even the so called STEM subjects which some people do not believe is easy for girls. A couple of also spent a considerable amount of time reading Star Trek novels and debating over who was better Kirk or Spock, and few of us never missed Star Trek: The Next Generation.

At present though I know considerably fewer people who would identify themselves as nerds. For some reason as you become an adult, some people believe it's time to put aside such "childish" pursuits (sometimes replacing them with other interests which are far less clever and more infantile, but I will leave that for another post.) Perhaps this is why I have met less adults who indulge in these sorts of interests and of course much fewer women as well.

Once again though the internet's ability to bring together cliques across miles and boundaries unearths transformative revelations.  Where else would I find female nerds of varying ages and descriptions watching and critiquing "The Big Bang Theory" or putting out amazing efforts of creativity and craft skills to produce eye popping cosplay or just being crafty with crochet, metal work or a myriad of other skills?  Where else would I go to find massive viewing parties of new Sherlock episodes or fan fiction which covers every scenario and pairing almost before I knew I wanted to read about them?

Black nerds with similar interests were not immediately visible. Not because they didn't exist but because of course with the internet you do not necessarily know what faces are behind the comments and artwork and fanvids. I know I fall into the trap in defaulting to white faces when it comes to certain areas especially the internet. Something I try to work on, but a recent discovery has helped me vastly in diversifying the internet community out there in my mind's eye. I cannot remember where I first saw the mention of Black Girl Nerds on Twitter, but how can you help noticing something with a title that succinctly describes you?  I found myself on a website which promptly changed the composition of my internet family. I was looking at a page that had been created by people who thought the way I did, and probably felt at times that they were the only ones. Wading into this whole new hidden ocean has been a joy because the discoveries and sensations that have come with it have been joyful ones. Of course once you find one internet community, it opens you up to so much. I now have new podcasts to listen to, new twitter friends who are feeding my obsession for retweets, and I recently got pulled into a discussion on "blerds". Despite the fact that the sound of the word does not sit well with my inner word cadence, the fact that there are enough blerds out there to give them a community name is delightful and very comforting.

We've all experienced the sensation of feeling alone both literally and figuratively and then suddenly discovering that you are among friends. For other nerds of colour out there, I invite you to stop thinking of yourself as a lonely loner, and check out this side of the world. You may find that the nerd population of the world has grown even bigger and more diverse than you imagined.

I'm still exploring this more diverse world of nerdiness. If you want to find out more, I suggest you start with Black Girl Nerds as I did. Please let me know in the comments
if you have other suggestions of sites I should visit which promote a more diverse nerd culture.