Friday, March 30, 2012

Open Relationships

I tried to post this as a comment to Maybe Genius' awesome post, but Blogger is being weird. Since this is a really important topic to me, I decided to post my response here. (Make sure you read her post first.)

Totally agree here. Our culture places far too much importance on monogamy and "faithfulness." Monogamy isn't for everyone. You wouldn't limit yourself to only one friend, so why should you limit yourself to one lover? Many people need variety. And it is possible to love one person while still enjoying the sexual/romantic company of others. When I get into a relationship with someone, I let them know upfront that they shouldn't expect "faithfulness." (Nor do I expect it from them.)

One thing I appreciated about "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" was the way it presented open relationships. The protagonists not only had sex with multiple partners, but they also cared about these individuals. (Then again, this book was published in Sweden, so maybe this isn't as much of a stigma over there.)

Another example that comes to mind is Nnedi Okorafor's "Who Fears Death." While it doesn't exactly endorse open relationships, I loved the way the "slut" of the group was also one of the bravest and most loyal. It also wasn't afraid to acknowledge that women actually enjoy sex.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Just Another "Hunger Games" Movie Review

Note: Don't read this if you haven't seen the movie yet.

I wasn't going to go to the midnight premiere of The Hunger Games since I couldn't find anyone else who wanted to go, and I also had a Journal Club presentation the next day at my lab. So on the evening of the 22nd, I sat down to work in a cafe, and after an hour of work and two or three hours of procrastination, I knew that I wouldn't be able to get anything done if I didn't see this movie. So I ended up buying a ticket at one of the only nearby theaters that still had open seats.

The theater turned out to be tiny, which wasn't a problem, as there were only about twenty people there. (Kind of defeats the purpose of a premiere. I was hoping for a huge crowd of people going nuts and dressing up and maybe even screaming and cheering throughout the movie. Though I did get a very good seat without having to show up four hours in advance.)

As for the movie:

Better than the book.

The movie is never better than the book. Unless, of course, the book sucked. (The Two Towers. Don't hate me.) But not only was it really well-made, with very good actors, but it actually improved on a lot of stuff from the book.

What I liked:
-Despite having read the book twice and knowing what was going to happen, I was still paralyzed with fear when Katniss was going up the glass tube. That's how good the acting was.
-Did anyone else notice the way, through the first half of the movie, the camera moved really fast? You observe the rush of everything just how Katniss sees it.
-The movie definitely caught the superficiality of everything, as well as Katniss' constant feeling of being trapped.
-Seneca Crane and President Snow: Seneca Crane (and his beard) got a LOT of screentime. I loved seeing the games from their perspective, and how they're simultaneously trying to give everyone a good show while quelling any rebellion.
-District 11's rebellion. Enough said.
-Haymitch -- hilarious. I especially loved the part where he and Katniss are laughing about the pig scene.
-Fight with Clove -- One of the things that bothered me about the book was the way Clove's sadism turned into an excuse to keep Katniss alive. This was much less of a problem in the movie.
-Cato's lament at the end. It really captured his human, vulnerable side.

What I didn't like:
-Gale: He was the only actor who didn't nail his part down.
-Rushed feeling of the Games: This was especially a problem with the Katniss/Rue scenes. I never really got the sense that they realistically bonded.
-Thresh and Cato: I really, really wanted to see this fight. Why, why, WHY couldn't they put this is the movie?
-Effie: In the book, she's superficial, but you can also see the way she develops a fondness for Katniss and Peeta. In the movie, she's just superficial.

Did you see the movie? What did you think? If you wrote a review, feel free to link to it in the comments.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Review of "The Marbury Lens" by Andrew Smith

This book could have been amazing. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that I started reading this book in a darkened bus, but Andrew Smith really pulls off a dark, horrific atmosphere. The awesome creepiness  and the compelling story make this a hard book to put down.

So much potential. And yet, Smith doesn't seem to have any idea where he was going with this story.

The Marbury Lens combines a lot of elements: a traumatic kidnapping and near-rape experience; a trip to England plus romance; unexplained crossover into a rotting world called Marbury that resembles a Western gone to hell; a ghost named Seth who has a mysterious connection to the main character. All of these are intriguing elements, but they never seem to fit together. It's like they were all thrown in to create either tension, drama, or mystery, but really, half of these elements had absolutely no place in the story.

Consider this gem of a scene: After escaping from Freddy Horvath, the man who kidnapped and tried to rape him, Jack is on a plane to England. The man sitting next to him begins to flirt with him, and when Jack wakes up from a nap, he catches the guy massaging his leg. The flight attendant notices and moves Jack to a different seat. The creepy guy from the plane is never seen again. Exactly what was the point of including that? Unless the author has some sort of anti-gay agenda. Which, to be honest, I'm not convinced he doesn't.

While we're on the subject of sex and romance, I should probably bring up Nicki, the requisite love interest. She's gorgeous, English, and for some inexplicable reason, totally in love with Jack. She has a friend, Rachel, and a brother. If there were any other characterizing details about her in the story, I must have forgotten them. From what I can tell, she exists for no reason other than to provide Jack with sex and moral support. The shallowness of their romance is especially surprising when you look at the depth of Jack's other relationships in the book. I'm referring to his friendship with Conner, and his protectiveness of Ben and Griffin, the two boys traveling with him in Marbury. Even Henry Hewitt, the mysterious guy who gives Jack the glasses that transport him to Marbury, has a more compelling relationship to Jack than Nicki does.

It makes me sad when a book with so much promise goes to waste. I would love to find something like this that was actually well-constructed.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

You know you're a writer when...

Today, a girl from my lab was sitting in the cafeteria with one of her friends. A few of us came down for coffee and my our labmate introduced us to her friend.

I couldn't stop staring at her.

The first word that came to mind was "flawless." Her skin was perfectly smooth and even, and it was a little eerie. Her body was long and skinny and she had incredibly long hair that fell around her like a curtain. At first, I thought I might be attracted, but the next moment I realized that I didn't even think she was pretty. She had the long pointy chin of a cartoon witch, and when she looked in your direction, her eyes looked like wide, pale bulges. It reminded me of Gollum, actually.

Like this. I swear.

Anyway, I have been attracted to girls before, and I know what that feels like. But this wasn't attraction, or at least not the sexual/romantic kind. It was something else. A "prose crush," I guess.

Do you ever have those moments when you see someone/something, and what you see is so striking that you have to describe it? To put it to words, somehow? Because it sure as hell is weird.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Do your fucking research

No, I'm not talking about writing this time. (Although "do your research" is generally good advice when you're doing that, too.) I'm referring to political stuff and social networking about political stuff.

First off, the Kony 2012 thing. Up until now, I've been avoiding the discussion, mostly since I don't know that much about the issue. And honestly, neither do 90% of the people who are tweeting about it, most likely. So here's an idea. How about asking someone who might actually know a thing or two?:

Does posting this video mean I'm taking a side in regards to this issue? No. For all I know, this girl might be full of shit (or have no clue what she's talking about.) But the point I'm trying to make is that before you go around advertising some cause on your blog/facebook/twitter, maybe you should do a little bit of research beforehand. Don't just trust one source to give you all the information.

Now on to the second thing I wanted to discuss: Birth control. Arizona is trying to pass House Bill 2625. (Here's an article if you want to hear about this in normal person English and not lawyerspeak.) Admittedly, the actual text of the bill was too tl;dr for me to read in full (okay, so maybe I'm a hypocrite), but clearly, whoever wrote this bill didn't do their research. Take this gem of a line: "...This subsection shall not exclude coverage for prescription contraceptive methods ordered by a health care provider with prescriptive authority for medical indications other than for contraceptive, abortifacient, abortion or sterilization purposes." (Scroll down to the first blue paragraph.)

I'm not going to criticize anyone's views on abortion, but anyone who has taken five minutes to research birth control can tell you that BIRTH CONTROL IS NOT ABORTION. Birth control doesn't kill anything; it stops a woman from ovulating. In other words, birth control stops your body from releasing an egg.

Unlike sperm, a woman is not constantly producing eggs. These eggs have been sitting in a woman's ovary since very early in her development, and when puberty hits, they start popping out at monthly intervals. So what happens during his mystical process of 'ovulation'? Little Miss Egg gets all dolled up and then takes a ride down the fallopian tube, where she eagerly waits for some dashing sperm to sweep her off her feet. But then there's this evil thing called birth control that stabs her and rapes her and leaves her bleeding corpse lying in the middle of the street. Oh wait, that's not what happens. Instead, birth control calls her and says "Hey Babe. It's raining like crazy out there, so you're probably better off staying in!" So instead of putting on her high heels and lipstick, Little Miss Egg stays wrapped up in her warm ovary home and spends the next month eating ice cream and watching Gray's Anatomy with all her other egg roommates. That doesn't mean she will stay in there forever--she can party next month!

So in short, birth control is not for aborting babies. It is for delaying ovulation. (Not saying that there's no chance of birth control permanently affecting a woman's fertility. I wouldn't know; I'm not the expert on the matter. But I am pretty sure that anyone who tries to use birth control to abort a baby--or anyone who thinks you can use birth control to abort a baby--is an idiot.)

Monday, March 12, 2012

"Internal Conflict" and Character Flaws

Does anyone else find the term "internal conflict" to be pretty vague? It's obviously very different from "external conflict" where the main character is in conflict with either another character or the outside world. But when I hear the term "internal conflict," all I can think of is a bunch of character angst.

That's not what it means, of course. Internal struggle is when a character has to wrestle with his or her own shortcomings, flaws, and conflicting ideologies. And in most cases, it usually translates into character angst.

And that's fine, I suppose. Our shortcomings are what prevent us from accomplishing our goals. To ignore these shortcomings or overcome them in an instant would be a slap in the face to character development. But is there a better way we can incorporate internal conflict into our stories?

In one of the books I'm reading, the main character sees herself as a weak person who has almost no potential for greatness. From the looks of things, she will probably overcome this and discover her inner strength. And maybe that can be a good story. (I can't say, as I haven't finished the book yet.)

But the internal conflict that I want to read? I want to read about characters who are so flawed that they're the cause of everything that goes wrong in the story. Not one of those "My life is hell, how can I overcome it?" stories. I'm talking about "Oh shit, what the hell did I do?" Stories like Kelley York's Hushed or Donna Tartt's The Secret History. Stories where the main character might not be likeable. I love villain protagonists. (I mean, has anyone seen Death Note?) Or even if the character isn't a villain, I want to see them screw up and then have to deal with their own mistakes. (Locke Lamora, anyone? Not that he's particularly repentant about it...)

One of these days I need to do a post about anti-heroes. Remind me if I forget.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Okay Fiiiiiiiiiiiine (7 Lines From My WiP)

Line 7 on page 7 started mid-sentence. So I shifted this up a couple lines. (And did some editing.)

“I made an exception for the instruments,” Mr. Arken said. “Oh, and Jackson—” The young man spun to attention. Olivia could see Paula’s diamond cross glittering in his palm. “Paula can keep her necklace. It was a family gift.”

And if it weren’t, they would confiscate it? Then again, Mr. Arken also thought that earrings were a symbol of masochism, so perhaps this shouldn’t surprise her.

Paula snatched back her necklace and walked to Olivia’s side. “Get used to it,” she muttered. “Inter-World’s paranoid.”

Book Recommendation: The Outsiders, by S.E. Hinton

I know I've been out of the blog loop lately. Blame it on lab, family, a weekend in D.C., Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and general laziness. I would promise to be better about posting more often, but the truth is, my life is about to get busier. In addition to my work in the lab, I was also offered a job teaching SAT prep classes. (Ironic, really, as I can probably count the number of hours I spent studying for my own SATs on one hand. But hey, it pays!)

I've also made the decision to cut back on New Adult Project reviews. One book a week means that I don't have a lot of time to read other books, and I have at least six already-purchased books clearing their throat at me as I write this. These reviews will now be posted every other week,.

Now without further ado, here is S.E. Hinton's The Outsiders:

The problem with reading books that came out more than thirty years ago is that you can't always judge them by the same standards. Our current idea of "cliche" doesn't apply, for instance, and many of our stylistic "guidelines," (ie show, don't tell) might not have been much of an issue back then. For that reason, although there were little things in The Outsiders that annoyed me (the loop-back ending, a "writer"-ish protagonist, a certain character who had very symbolic initials), I won't judge the book based on those elements.

What I will say is that I understand why this book remains on shelves. (It was first published in 1967.) The story is short, but just enough long enough to reveal the complexity of the characters and their relationships. Ponyboy is a relatable narrator, and his voice makes this book a very fast, but impacting read.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Twitter Update

I got a Twitter. You can follow me at @Yael_Itamar.

If you would like me to add you, post your twitter name in the comments.
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