Yesterday I did a thing I haven’t since 2008: I bought a ticket to a fan convention. This one is a whole other level of different, though. In 2008, I a la carted my way through a Supernatural Creation Con, and while I met and hugged and asked questions of and got autographs from and pictures with many of my favorite secondary players on that show, I assiduously avoided the stars, save for the one question I asked Jensen Ackles during the panel appearance. (Video exists, but I’m not linking it. Short version: Yeah, Jensen probably would have been friends with Dean Winchester in high school.)
The ticket I bought yesterday to attend the Wizard World Chicago convention next month is a so-called VIP package, which gets me early floor access, some limited edition goodies, premium panel seating and at least two opportunities to up-close meet actor Sebastian Stan, who plays Bucky Barnes/the Winter Soldier in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
I’m so nervous I might hurl. Which I keep reminding myself is silly: This dude is not even two years older than me, and by all accounts presents himself as the sweetest, hammiest, most gracious nerd imaginable. It’s also not like the five minutes total of one-on-one interaction this will entail will be earth-shattering; my goal, really, is to have fun and be classy. But I also keep thinking about what I’d want to communicate in those few minutes, and it gets complicated, especially now that I’ve put my finger on what it is about his performance as the Winter Soldier that hits me so hard. Continue reading “My imminent, self-inflicted Sebastian Stan problem”→
Tonight is exciting! Tonight I get to see Aziz Ansari at the Chicago Theater, a comedian I have never seen live in an iconic venue I’ve never manage to hit up. In celebration of that, and of the brilliant, funny and wonderful Analicia, my hairstylist who knows how to make curly hair all that it can be (pictured above with her stunning yellow locks), I’m offloading some of the links I’ve been hoarding and meaning to share for *mumblemumble.*
This coming Memorial Day weekend will be the first since Band of Brothers paratroopers and all-around excellent South Philly boys Bill Guarnere and Babe Heffron passed away, 14 weeks apart. Robyn Post, who co-wrote their excellent autobiography Brothers in Battle, Best of Friends, shared some memories of the two that had me belly-laughing. For a pair of guys I never met, I am awfully fond of them.
I am one of the five remaining people in the world who doesn’t have Netflix, but apparently a glitch in its software is creating amazing program summaries of offerings we really wish existed.
I always notice when I find myself collecting clusters of stories. The first is about disappearing online, and the attendant anxieties of data mining, electronic tracking and surveillance, government or profit-driven:
However, I don’t know if any of them can be as unsettling, beautiful, eerie and terrifying as slowing down “Because” to 800% of its normal speed, without distortion. The track is almost 20 minutes long, and I’m sure some of it is in Parseltongue, but it’ll stay with you. Wow, is that song good.
Inside the Corporate Fandom Marketing Machine gets inside the process of successful social media campaigns and leveraging fan passion to make waves (and money) and stay on the air. A good breakdown of differences in behavior from fans of different ages too.
Diversity Cross-Checking Reference for Writers offers a directory of contacts who are happy to answer questions about culture, lived experience and whether that thing you’re writing is on the right track or totally, completely, embarrassingly wrong. Pair with Disability After the Singularity, which questions why sci-fi is so hellbent on a universally able-bodied future, and what we’re missing when we “fix” disability in fiction. (Also, this interview with the woman who coined the term “white privilege” is worth a read. I guess we found my third link cluster.)
On best-ofs: I’m a sucker for these, and always mean to go through the lists more closely. Conor Friedersdorf (The Atlantic) has assembled his 100 best nonfiction stories of 2013, while NPR is set to release a massive database of commencement addresses, since it’s that season.
Finally, because perhaps not all of you are watching me utterly lose my mind over Captain America: The Winter Soldier over at Tumblr, I have to share this incredible fanvid here. It’s not what you think; give it a watch. If you have feelings about Bucky Barnes, this one is going to give you more.
So simple, but also completely devastating, especially when you note the edge of the window in the corner and think about what that means for you the viewer. (Pair with this Leyendecker-inspired portrait of Steve Rogers, which has incredible details layered in. Look, I really love this movie, okay?)
One thing that struck me about Captain America: The Winter Soldier was the film’s emphasis on recognition scenes. Steve Rogers, the protagonist, has been asleep for 70 years, and the America that he finds on waking is a much different one than the one he grew up knowing. For the past couple weeks I’ve found myself collecting links about the ways in which the United States has become unrecognizable, even in my lifetime, and it’s far past time I shared them. (I’d like to disclaim again that I’m in no way saying that the 1940s and that whole “Greatest Generation” thing are more authentic or superior somehow. See also: Feminism, civil rights and modern medicine, for starters.)
What got me started on this link-hoarding spree was finding a handful of essays about cost of living in San Francisco, London and New York, versus the affordability gap between metro areas and exurban cities in general. Saloncalled gentrification violence, a particular kind that thrives on erasure. You’re expected to participate in these processes, if you want certain things for your career. You may have no choice, if you’re lucky.
I say “if you’re lucky” because education is very much a part of where opportunities happen, and education at all levels in the United States is in serious trouble. Teach for America, which sells itself as a chance for high-achieving college grads to do good in school districts that need the most help, is a destructive scam. Overworking students and teachers isn’t just an epidemic in the UK. The arms race for admission to the most elite colleges has tipped well into obscenity. The “superbrand” universities are coming out fine, assuming you discount the hidden costs of attending and the ongoing job market and salary catastrophe for adjuncts, grad students and non-tenured faculty. (Polls are finding that superbrand college experiences aren’t even necessary for happiness or success, but the allure of prestige is so hard at 17 or 18, especially when you’re terrified that if you “settle” now, you’ll have missed your chance forever.) Again, this is all assuming you get in the door.
Meanwhile, government keeps failing us, and we’re too deadlocked to see our way out: knowing more about issues and situations actually entrenches our partisanship further. Redistricting has turned the organizational units of Congress into a place with virtually no idealogical overlap. Racism entrenches those divisions further still. See what happens when only certain people can afford to live where there are jobs?
This is a really cursory, totally surface-level collection of links; I keep following these stories whenever they crop up, and the deep-current trends are distressing and overwhelming. These are not necessarily the best links about these stories, just the most recent. If I dug more, I could put together something much more damning. The conversation is hard to start, particularly when the first piece of financial advice for young people always seems to be “Stop buying $5 lattes every day.” It shows how little that side understands the economic situation of most young people if it assumes we’ve got disposable income like that.
No wonder I’d much prefer to spend the rest of the day fantasizing about how amazing Hayley Atwell’s Agent Peggy Carter is going to be. If this badass can triumph over the sexism and every other -ism of the 1940s, we should have a fighting chance too, right?
The problem with Captain America: The Winter Soldier is that there’s no room for a bathroom break. Other Marvel movies have spots that slow down or drag, but Winter Soldier manages to make every moment plot-relevant and engaging. It’s one reason why I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it for two and a half weeks, and why I’ll be seeing it for a third time this afternoon.
I was never a big Cap fan: Thor was the one that grabbed me from the moment the lights came up, with its Shakespearean grandeur, self-effacing humor and immensely compelling brothers-at-war plot. I saw Captain America: The First Avenger opening weekend — a group of friends and I dressed up as ’40s ladies — and wanted to love it, since Band of Brothers was and is so important to me. I enjoyed it at the time, but thought it was over-long. The Avengers, released almost a year later, I found emotionally vacant, the cinematic equivalent of banging action figures together. The Thor sequel and the Iron Man films were fine, but they didn’t move me. I was really expecting similar from Winter Soldier.
Oh boy wow, was I wrong.
General praise first: Anthony and Joe Russo, primarily known before this for directing TV like Community and Arrested Development, did something we didn’t expect but should have seen coming — they made an entirely character-driven story. The fight scenes are spectacular (and all very distinct), but they’re also critiques of fight scenes and the military industrial complex that drives their demand. Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) is deeply uncomfortable with his role within SHIELD and its workings, as well he should be: the movie is really about drone strikes and the NSA. When Rogers needs help, between Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), Sam “Falcon” Wilson (the standout Anthony Mackie), Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders) and the Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), he’s literally the only white man at the table. There’s no romantic subplot, and that’s thrilling: all the women are competent, fully-fleshed and motivated by more than sharing screen time with Cap.