Slingback Sunday — “Constancy Characters Tavern”

I have missed an inexcusable number of Throwback Thursdays, and I just came across this while sifting through some old posts, and it made me laugh out loud, so I’m posting it here with only the thinnest veneer of a pretext for it, and a run-on sentence intro to boot.

Originally published as a Facebook Note on September 11th, 2012.

 

Constancy Characters Tavern

 

My professor said we can do anything we want with our response papers. So I did. You’ve been warned.

 

Persuasion – Final Response Paper

[Dimly lit tavern. Several small wooden tables in the center of the room. Seated around these are Anne Elliot (Persuasion), Bella Swan (Twilight), Severus Snape (Harry Potter), Jack Bauer (24), Miles Vorkosigan (The Vorkosigan Saga), Ginny Weasley, and Harry Potter (Harry Potter). Buxom tavern wenches swoop periodically between the tables, resupplying drinks.]

 

ANNE: (finishing up what was clearly a long story) “. . . And that is why one must never waver from one’s first and dearest love. Constancy and loyalty will always be rewarded.”

 

BELLA: “Oh, totally. When my Edward left me, I was, like, completely depressed, I started doing super dangerous stuff like riding motorcycles and jumping off cliffs — but he only left me to protect me! For my own good! When he saw how much I loved him, he took me back! It was sooooo romantic!”

 

GINNY: “Ugh, gimme a break. As if your younger self has any idea what’s good for you. If someone’s not interested and treats you badly, MOVE ON.”

 

ANNE and BELLA: (shocked gasp)

 

SNAPE: “To be perfectly frank — and when am I ever not? — I have to side with the two ladies on this. My eternal and constant love for Lily Evans is my only redeeming quality. Otherwise I’m a total douchebag.”

 

HARRY: “Can we not talk about your creepy unrequited crush on my mom when I’m sitting right here?

 

ANNE: (with stiff politeness) “And what is your opinion on the matter, Mr. Potter? Do you concur with your wife?”

 

HARRY: “Uh, yeah! If I’d stayed all hung up on Cho Chang, I’d never have married Ginny, and we all know what a mistake that would have been.” (smiles goofily and nuzzles Ginny’s cheek)

 

ANNE and BELLA: “Awwwwwww.”

 

SNAPE: “I’ll just be over here, drowning my sorrows. Don’t mind me.”

 

JACK BAUER: (leaning over from an adjacent table) “Sorry for butting in, but I’ve gotta agree with the happy couple. I mean, my wife died pretty early on, and yeah, that sucked and I was depressed for a couple years, but then I got a hot new girlfriend. I don’t remember what happened to her, she probably died, but whatever, I got another love interest like practically every season after that. Plus I saved the world a bunch of times. So here’s to moving on!” (Jack, Harry, and Ginny all clunk their mugs together)

 

MILES: (ducking between Jack and Harry with a winning smile) “Well, I wouldn’t be so cavalier about it, but you certainly have a point. My crush on my childhood sweetheart didn’t work out — she rejected me and married this annoyingly decent fellow — and I had various relationships over the years, but as I matured, I came to better understand my own priorities and what I need from a partner, and wound up marrying a woman who wasn’t even introduced until the tenth book of the series.”

 

ANNE: “The tenth book? How on earth did you manage? And how could you simply abandon your first love without a fight?”

 

MILES: (shrugging) “It wasn’t easy. But sometimes you’ve just got to be a grown up.”

 

ANNE, BELLA, and SNAPE: “Never.

 

 

(A great debt of inspiration is owed to Zeke, creator of the Underused Characters Tavern on Fiveminute.net)

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#FlashbackFriday — How To Grow Your Very Own Nerd

Since I skipped yesterday’s #ThrowbackThursday post due to my newly-written post on Derek Jeter, I’m doing this instead this week, in my continued effort to migrate some of my old Facebook writing to this blog. Original post was from February 21st 2010, during my freshman year of college.
* * *
This week’s Creative Writing assignment involved writing a “How-To.” Rules: must be in second person, must include 4 lines of dialogue, must be based on a starter given by the teacher, one of which is “How to grow your own_______.” I think it’s supposed to be in story form, but it’s not. Sue me.

 

 

How to Grow Your Very Own Nerd

 

 

If you are reading this manual, you are almost certainly a nerd, interested in raising a child to be every bit as socially incompetent as yourself — an admirable aspiration. Given this fact, it is probably best to begin, gently, with a caveat that no nerd wants to hear: This is not an exact science. Surely that statement makes you want to tear your nerdy hair out and rant and rave that “Yes, it can be broken down into neat little categories with clever little labels! It can and it must!” But never fear. There are some basics you should follow, and when the going gets tough, just remember: “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. Or the one.”

 

That quote actually has nothing whatsoever to do with the topic at hand, but it does tend to sound quite knowing and impressive in almost any situation. Like, “My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.” Absolutely useless in normal conversation, but still deliciously quotable. Lines any nerd should know.

 

Which is as good a place as any to start.

 

Tip #1: Show the little guy some movies. Make that, lots and lots of movies. Quote your favorite lines to him until he starts quoting them back or threatens to bash your head in with a rock. Don’t panic that he’s too young for grown-up nerd movie lines — Toy Story’s “YOU are a child’s PLAYTHING!!” and The Lion King’s “They call me MISTER pig!” will suffice until he’s old enough for the real stuff.

 

Tip #2: Get him obsessed with things. True mark of nerdery is obsession. You know exactly what I’m talking about — math nerd, science nerd, movie nerd . . . It doesn’t matter which one, the approach is the same: It’s your field. Know it inside and out. Master it. Get it right.

 

Tip #2 Corollary: Fandom of some kind is, ultimately, negotiable. While some are considered fairly universal—Star Trek and Star Wars, for instance, and don’t mix them up; BIG rookie mistake—none are absolute. It is possible to be a nerd without fandom, because nerdiness at its core is an attitude, a mindset. But if you wish to cultivate a household where the terms “mostly dead” and “flux capaciter” are as familiar as “Mom” and “Dad,” then you should cover your bases. Recommendations: “Firefly,” “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” and “Angel,” for starters. Teaching him the axiom “Joss Whedon is the second coming” would be a plus. Also, steer clear of Twilight at all costs. The additional axiom of “Stephenie Meyer sucked all the awesome out of the vampire genre” would not go amiss.

 

Tip #3: Raise him on British humor. For some inexplicable reason, not everyone appreciates it, so best to start young. Recommendations: Monty Python and the Holy Grail, and The Princess Bride (honorary British).

 

Tip #4: Make sure the first songs he learns are useful, like the Animaniacs’ Presidents and capital cities songs. No need to pressure him into learning Klingon, but if you’ve got some instructional tapes or CDs lying around, pop ‘em in once in a while. Because, you know, nerds are smart.

 

Tip #5: When it comes time for him to start attending birthday parties, allow him to choose the gift he will give. It’s important for your kid to have an illusion of control. But make sure the wrapping paper he uses is the kind that says on it “Happy Birthday!” in every conceivable language including binary and hexadecimal, and teach him that this is the epitome of cool.

 

Tip #6: Be aware that he may notice that he is not like the other children. Learn to respond to such ridiculous sentiments as: “But everyone else in my nursery school watches Barney!” with a firm, “Yes, but can any of them carry on a conversation about Heisenberg Compensators with a fully-grown adult?”

 

Tip #7: Lastly, it is good for your child to have some intersecting points of interest with non-nerds, i.e. the common folk. It is perfectly all right to introduce the kid to sports, but remember — obsession is key. Before he’s big enough to play anything, be sure that he knows the history, famous players, records, and names of statistics of his chosen sport. Some nerd elitists may scoff, but in my highly informed opinion, “sports nerd” is a worthy subcategory for a nerd in the modern world.

 

Well, there you have it. 7 handy-dandy tips and 1 corollary to get you started on growing your very own nerd who will, if all goes right, be unable to get a date to save his life. Good luck to you. Live long and prosper.

____

 

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REVIEW: Adaptation by Malinda Lo

 

 

 

I try not to go into anything with expectations. Having no expectations that something will be good means you’re free to absorb whatever it is — a book, a movie, a TV show, a game — with fewer biases, and are less likely to be disappointed, because hey, you never expected it to be good in the first place.

On the other hand, sometimes I can’t help but get excited about something before I even read or see it. This book was an example of that. A 40 page preview was released a few months before it came out, and I read it and it was fantastic. Intense, fast-paced, action-packed, with dozens of questions set up to be answered in the rest of the book. So I was excited about that.

I also knew a bit about the author, Malinda Lo, who is a Chinese-American lesbian Young Adult writer who is known in the YA publishing community for being a wonderful voice on issues such as racial diversity and LGBTQ portrayals in YA literature. Adaptation was nominated for a Lambda award, plus I knew there would be at least one major LGBTQ character, and I was looking forward to seeing how Lo would balance that aspect with the action-adventure plot. I was really excited to read a book with an LGBTQ main character that wasn’t ABOUT being LGBTQ, but rather having that as just one element of the character and the story.

And well . . . I should have known better than to have expectations. I was unfortunately disappointed.

The opening chapters are riveting, no doubt about that. The book starts with the main character, Reese, and her high school debate partner and their coach waiting to fly home from a debate tournament, and then suddenly planes start crashing all over the country. No one knows what’s going on, all flights are grounded, people start to panic, and to top it off, all information about the plane crashes is being systematically wiped from the internet. It’s intense.

But then . . . things slow down. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t need nonstop action to keep me happy as a reader. But the problem is, when the action slows down, the faults in the characterization become more apparent. I really wanted to like Reese and be invested in her story, but I felt like I didn’t have a good enough handle on who she was as a person, what makes her tick outside of direct influences from the plot, and that made it difficult to empathize with her.

Perhaps this was because there was so much frantic action in the first few chapters — it’s hard to establish personality under those circumstances. But also, Lo seems to skimp on details that aren’t directly plot-relevant. For instance, Reese and her debate partner, David, just lost a huge tournament after making it to the finals. But we never once hear what the topic of the debate was. We never once hear about any topics for any debates, which presumably there have been a lot of if they made it all the way to the finals. We never see Reese use any possible knowledge she learned in her years as a debater. Research skills, methods of arguing, reasons why Reese was so driven to succeed in this particular area, specific memories relating to previous debates — none of these are demonstrated or explored. This was frustrating to me from a character perspective. I love when female characters are given passions that have nothing to do with romance (sadly all too rare), but this passion seemed sorely underdeveloped, to the detriment of the character.

And then I had issues with the romance. Not to give too much away, but toward the middle of the novel, Reese meets a girl who makes her question her sexuality, and they begin to pursue a relationship.

As someone who has close friends who identify as bisexual or fluid and have struggled with it, I was really glad to see it represented so matter-of-factly. Unfortunately, I didn’t think highly of the romantic relationship because of the underdeveloped characterization. Romance is a great way to reveal character — you learn about what a character values, what they need, what they respond to in another person, what they connect with. Disappointingly, it seems that most of what Reese is shown to connect with in her love interest is that she’s hot, like really really hot. And flighty and adventurous in the vein of the manic pixie dreamgirl. Not much substance to the relationship at all. And I guess being able to show that hormone-driven high school relationships (cough Twilight cough) have every right to be homosexual as well as heterosexual is a good thing, but it’s not very satisfying.

So overall, I really wanted to like this book. It had a lot of good ideas and interesting elements, but the execution was lacking. There’s a sequel in the works, and I’m on the fence about whether I want to read it or not. Characterization has been known to improve over the life of a series, though, so I might give it a shot.

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