Fan is Short for Fanatic, You Know

Not that it’s inherently a bad thing, of course, given that I’m a fan of a great many things.  I often cross the line into obsession, just a little bit. That doesn’t mean I blame other people for liking things I don’t. And that the creators probably have a different agenda than I do.

For an example I didn’t plan on using, Hawaii 5-0 (the new one) has decided to jump genres from quasi-police drama to extreme Super Spies! (this choice I don’t get so much).

However, many fans are complaining about the season premier of NCIS because they blew up the building last season’s finale and then wrapped up a plot line taking at least three months in less than an hour. While I missed the potential for character development and hurt/comfort, the writers aren’t thinking about it from a fan’s perspective. I also wonder if they understand fan angst after such a dramatic event: like that TV show that shot a main character and made the entire season a dream. It’s kind of a cop-out.

In the case of NCIS, though, a lot of time wrapping up last season’s plot probably would distract and tedious for regular television watchers. If you don’t obsess over a show, how are you supposed to keep all the necessary back story straight? The generally episodic nature of NCIS probably explains much of its longevity (and lack of on-screen shipping—offend no one, engage everyone!).

Have you heard the term ‘shipping’? I could link you, but you may want to preserve your innocence.

English: Shipping dock in Hawaii

Not this kind of shipping [Shipping dock in Hawaii] (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Suffice to say, it’s the point where many fans start slipping the line to fanatic. People get passionate about which characters have relationships and who they have them with. I find the intensity odd, but since I read primarily non-relationship works (called ‘gen’), I don’t bother with it. More insidiously, some less than level-headed fans direct their attentions to just one character. Of course, they’re writing fan fictions, or participating on forums, and they are incapable of sympathetic reasoning toward any other character, cannot under any circumstances recognize on-show teasing, and refuse to recognize their character could possibly have any flaws.

Perhaps this explains Twilight. Despite all the flaws written into both Edward and Bella’s characters, when viewed objectively (snobbery, jealousy, possessiveness), because they are never explicitly stated in-text as flaws, and indeed, are written as virtues, people who enjoy the series can’t stand to hear that anyone dislikes what they  love.

Clearly there is a failure to teach critical thinking.

Just because I like McGee, for example, best of the characters on NCIS, doesn’t mean I don’t recognize that all his flaws are non-existent. Like all the characters, he suffers from inconsistencies  what with all the years and all its producers, NCIS isn’t a show built for canon purists.

But so many people can’t seem to accept this at all. They attack other fans, other fan-works and they can’t believe their prejudices aren’t supported by evidence: to the point where they can’t even participate in a reasonable discussion. For instance, NCIS takes little seriously, it’s a funny show. But Tony fans take every single joke as an assault on his character, regardless of whether the character takes any particular notice. I should also note this trend holds steady with any show, any character.

Fans can be the best at the ‘question anything’ mentality, coming up with wild theories to make sense of plot holes or reused actors playing different roles. Critical thinking begins with asking questions, but when fans find a pet theory and stop asking, it defeats the purpose. It’s not ‘thinking’ anymore, it’s delusion.

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Everything Sounds Better In Classical

My brother linked me to his Pandora station started from The Piano Guys, and it turns out there’s an entire genre of pop translated to music!

What can I say, I’m a snob.

I like pop as much as the next person, perhaps even more as so many people are convinced they’re too sophisticated for anything suitable for general consumption. As much as I may complain about the low standards of popular culture, or just people in general, I don’t actually object to the so-called low genres.

Actually, I’m not sure anyone actually uses the phrase “low genres”, but I’ve decided it suits my needs.

Genre Model - Interacting Elements

Genre Model – Interacting Elements (Photo credit: Derek Mueller)

Many people object to the idea of anything produced for the middle class: traditionally the largest and greatest commercial drive in the United States. With our Western idealization of the individual, even at the expense of community or society, anything aimed at the largest possible audience can’t be something to use to craft an identity. It’s a terrible sad development in our culture and I’ve already blogged of what comes from that.

But the elite especially despise the middle class: just read any “literary” novel. A great many are written by MFAs who (as far as I can tell) despise the middle class for taking up resources that they, as the battalions of culture, don’t receive.

I’ve got a whole ‘nother post in me about all the reasons I think that devoting those resources to the arts would be a bad idea, as radical as it seems.

Right now, however, I want to clarify that I don’t particularly consider myself better than anyone because of my taste in music. The reasons why anyone likes any kind of music and not another are far beyond my comprehension and aren’t related to intelligence, mental health, or virtue in any way outside of popular perception.  I’ve been reading Snoop, and in a recent chapter, Gosling reference a study saying that music is one of the primary topics people use to get to know each other.

That doesn’t mean it describes anything specific about you, but it can, and I think that has more to do which which music you enjoy, rather than the genre, and how people think of genres: like country music (is it really that bad? I just don’t hear the problem myself). So no need to judge me for being a snob (because I like the instrumental version better) or for being too low brow (because God forbid real musicians from even thinking about those dirty commoners).

Is there such a sad figure anywhere as the elitist confronted with reality?

 

I Like What I Like

Some people think that your given name influences your personality. If you think changing your name will give you better fortune, these people are willing to take your money to give you the best name possible!

Or, you know, just get them free.

Anyway, if Marie is a traditional name, maybe that’s where I got all my hobbies. Or maybe I just read too much as a kid. But uncool as reading is, I managed to get even more uncool as I got older and then went to college. I love picking up the unpopular hobbies.

Not like the hipsters people always make fun of but that I’ve never actually met outside of high school (isn’t everyone in high school a hipster?). But just the quiet stuff other people are tempted to make fun of especially on the internet. and not usually to my face. Another thing about the internet though is that it’s hard to tell, because lots of people have those hobbies, even there aren’t all that many in a given area and anyway you’re aren’t allowed to talk about such things with strangers because then you’ll be really weird.

So knitting, uncommon, much like the other crafts. Reading (obsessively) more common than tv-watchers think it is. Fan fiction reading a big, big thing, and also probably one of the biggest no-nos, aside from maybe playing the Sims games (which sadly, I hardly have time for, spending so much time online—and work of course. Work takes time away from everything interesting!

At any rate I’m not skilled enough with computers or math and not into enough manga and science to be a geek. As far as playground insults go I think that leaves me with dork.

Anyway,  I’ve always been vaguely embarrassed by the fact I read fan fiction. Because it has such an awful reputation—deservedly so, in the broadest strokes. As in any other subject, 90% is crap, but there are some real gems in there. Like the rest of web 2.0 (or wherever we’re at now), you have to do your own gatekeeping. You have to find your own meaning of culture and your own framework. <- Look, another, reference to Powys! And people aren’t ashamed of reading the Star Wars continuations when they come out in hard cover. Star Trek has the same, and having read those, they can be as bad as some fan fiction (if with slightly better grammar).

So there’s my justification for fan fic.

I think the only other one I don’t tend to bring up with people is the Sims and I haven’t been playing that often lately. And I can’t really justify it.

Because I really only play to take advantage of my control-freak tendencies.

Unsupportable

Happiness Is Only Real When Shared If there’s a single idea that I simply can’t stand in fiction…by which, I can’t or can only just bear to read it’s the concept of The Chosen One.

And I find it difficult to articulate exactly why.

I think in part because it’s so easy. Once you know that this story has a Chosen One, you know the Chosen One wins. Even in Star Wars, when the Chosen One goes evil, he still gets what he wants. Well, okay, that’s not the best example, because I’ve never been a very big fan and I’ve only seen the original trilogy (the ‘good’ one) in bits and pieces, though I think I’ve seen more of it. And that’s the story after the Chosen One’s story is over.

So the Chosen One always wins. That removes a significant layer of tension right there. Not that you don’t know most protagonists are going to win, or at least survive, in genre fiction. It’s conventional storytelling, and I don’t mind that. But Chosen Ones are born through prophecy, which by definition is true. And with some (even if vague) detail. Which is more information than I really want to know.

And worse, what the Chosen One does is right. I think that’s my biggest issue. Because it’s the Chosen One. He or She is going to save the world, has to be the one to save the world, and so no one else can tell them no. Generally, they can’t be wrong. Even if they make bad choices, the absolute worse consequence is a slap on the wrist.

Okay, so I confess I haven’t actually read many Chosen One stories. I tend not to be a big fan of genres that use that trope, and I avoid those stories that use it.

But I realized recently that I stopped reading Harry Potter when the Harry Potter as *the* Chosen One showed up. Not that he wasn’t all along, but in some ways that could be justified by chance, accident. Lord Voldemort can’t kill him by the Power Of Love (which I also find a more than a little aggravating, because it’s so passive in that instance) and Harry has to deal with it. Instead, it turns out that all along Harry has been the Chosen One, and is the only one who can destroy Lord Voldemort. Yeah, there was some ‘confusion’ if it could be Neville, but since Harry Potter main character and what it says on the tin, even the other (good) characters don’t consider it.

I haven’t read even the fifth book and after all the commercialization, really have no interest in the series anymore. It makes me sad, but that’s the way it goes. I have read both defenses and attacks on the later books, and I have to say the attackers have stronger arguments.

Maybe it’s not as bad as that. But I’ve been burned enough, and unless it’s the most awesomest of awesome books ever—and feel free to leave recommendations—the concept of the Chosen One is the idea that up with which I will not put.

Sketches

DSC_0179

Image by ImagineSpence via Flick

I like to write.

But then of course, all the Real Writers say writing is as breathing and if Real Writers are ever Not Writing, then they are dead. It’s just not possible to live without writing if you are a Real Writer. Or you die.

So I’ve never thought seriously about trying to write. A couple creative writing courses and submissions to school contests, a few spurts of attempted novel-writing, and nearly a lot of how-to-write books that I’d read for fun rather than actually using them to “help me write”. Or whatever it is I was supposed to do. But yes, most of my creative writing happened in school.

It’s the reading, you see. I read too much to create my own worlds. Or at least that’s the only theory I have. Because I have lots of ideas that never become stories. Lots of stories that never quite make it onto paper. My dolls acted out roles in whatever story I was telling, and my mind couldn’t let go of the characters in the books I loved. (Hence, why I was relieved when I found fan fiction as a teenager. Before that, I just thought I was crazy—at least if I am, I’m hardly alone.)

But I’ve never thought much of my own writing, and one of the earliest creative writing assignments I remember—third grade—I was scolded because, before I’d even started, my title resembled that of a real book. Yes, whoever told me so, I’d read it. This story was going to be different, I just liked the idea of the attic. Lots of stories, especially children’s stories, are attic-centered. Because attics are awesome. However much I attempted to explain (not really getting further than ‘but’ and teary), I had to change the title and the concept. Timid and obedient, I wrote something that I don’t really recall and never really liked.

Up until I started this post, I hadn’t thought about that in ages.

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Image via Wikipedia

That incident isn’t why I don’t write. All my anxiety about my art or my writing does not stem from that incident. But I can’t believe it didn’t contribute. Still, my main problem is my distractedness. Which is to say, obsessing over several series, tv and book, and still reading some ten different books in ten different subjects at any one time does not exactly lend ones mental state to creation of any kind, especially writing.

I just get more done than I think I do. Just in little pieces, ideas, like this:

Geraldine opened her phone. At her age, she was probably the only person in the entire world who didn’t actually want a phone. Essentially the only time she used it was when someone called her or she needed to find something out. She hated to be out of the loop. On anything. Her parents used to say she had big ears because she always heard whatever they were talking about, especially when she wasn’t supposed to; now she knew better than to come into contact with former lovers without your spouse’s permission. Then again, her father had never been the smartest person she’d ever met.

It was her father calling of all people. Unusual too, because it wasn’t Tuesday or six o’clock. Not to mention, her mother was the primary initiator of most calls from home.

“Hi dad”

“Hey baby girl. Your mother just got out of surgery and she’s asking for you—”

“Wait—momma had surgery! For what? Never mind, I’ll call back…just give her the phone.” Geraldine juggled her purse to the arm holding the Ross bag so she could more securely hold the phone to her ear without dropping anything.

Her mother’s voice wearied but apparently alert. “Thank you, I didn’t want to worry you girls but I wanted to remind you about Carla’s hair appointment.” Geraldine sighed. Not as lucid as she’d thought. Carla was her spoiled rotten niece, and she and her brother were rarely in contact.

What does it mean?!

I don’t remember where this came from. Not the least little bit. When I first found it on my USB drive, I wasn’t even sure it was mine. And yeah. Between this and the other I have no memory of, I’m starting to wonder if I just stole them:

His nose twitched, twitched once more as he reached his prize. He stopped, hesitated, sniffed. Then, ears came up and he jerked. The sound. Different. Seconds passed, nothing happened. His attention returned to his prize. But then! Wet. Like rain but without clouds. He ran. What insanity was this! Hyper-alert senses told him it was wrong. Now the ground was wet but the sky-water was gone, still he kept alert. The odd sound hadn’t stopped. His tail twitched back and forth in agitation. Otherwise, he didn’t move. Then. It was back! The wet! He ran again and it followed. For now he was free and he shook himself, but he heard it coming again. He reached the tree, just outside its reach. Just in case, he climbed. Tiny claws clutched the bark and he ran, bounded up the tree, hung upside down on the branch for a moment, and then heard the drops falling underneath him. It wasn’t rain. He climbed higher and relaxed. At least it could not catch him here.

Was this an assignment or something? (Title: The Squirrel) Also, regarding the first, I wish I remembered the story behind it, because it sounds fascinating. It’s like the dreams I used to have—I’d be reading, and always wake up right before the climax (come to think of it, I still get those dreams). Of course, I never remember the dream well enough to just write the story myself.

So am I a writer? Probably not. But I do hope I’ll keep it up.

I’ve Been Feeling Protective of Tourists Lately

Several weeks ago I picked up The City of Falling Angels by John Berendt (who also wrote Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil—and he has awesome titles). I read the prologue and first chapter pretty quickly, and then came back today to read the second, which is all of fourteen pages long.

And then I had to stop and respond.

Indeed, I held the pages open, grabbed my sketchbook, and wrote four pages all at once—it’s a smallish sketchbook. But up till now it was a sketchbook and not another of my random doodles book. Oh wells, it was available it happens. At least I didn’t try to write it on a series of old receipts (although wouldn’t that make an interesting art piece? hmmm).

And then I tried to read pulp fiction after that to actually read something without having to start another blog, and promptly wrote three-and-a-half pages on Star Trek: Killing Time in less than fifty pages. Yeah. I’ve got to stop doing that. Spies, though, by Michael Frayn, seems to be going well. The main character is already super engaging and there’s a mysterious bush that wouldn’t be mysterious if I looked it up but I don’t want to do that because this is definitely a book I could get lost in and I’m looking forward to it but I had to write this post first.

The City of Falling Angels is about Venice. As I am only 45 or so pages in, I’m not entirely sure of the premise although it appears to be primarily about the native Venetians and how they feel about living in such a city, framed by La Fenice (meaning the phoenix) and how it burned in 1996 (hence the picture).

Berendt’s style is very lyrical. The destruction of the Fenice and the reactions of the people watching nearly brought me to tears—especially the glassblower who couldn’t stop creating.

When I tried reading today, I got caught on the description of Venice as a city in the modern era. Now, I don’t actually know really anything about Venice other than its sinking, which is of course shameful. But from the description, so far I don’t have the most favorable impression from a cultural standpoint (don’t worry, most of the review isn’t actually bashing Venice, or the author for that matter).

Berendt calls Venice “dying” but if its centuries of poverty have left it so much like the paintings of the eighteenth century—no “modern intursions”—then I could only call it a dead city.

Much as I lament the loss of old buildings—my first thought when I learned of the controversy of the ‘mosque’ near ground zero was ‘must you take down a 100-year-old building to do so?’—I have to concede that that isn’t the way the world works. Things change. For one thing there are a lot more people (duh). As pretty much everything used to be, they don’t work in the modern world. Which like it or not, we live in. And modern architecture is hardly all bad. Much is boring (and some is bad) but unlike earlier time, they aren’t designed to last forever. Common architecture is not how we make our mark. and anyway, most common dwellings and other structures from the olden golden days were quite gleefully torn down for the next generational architectural statement.

And does no one realize what it takes to make such lovely cities? Berendt mentions Venice’s eight of power when it was a conqueror and an empire. Only in the case of art does this get described as a good thing. Artists definitely live in a happy world where they don’t have to consider things like that. Only in this situation is this description a positive. Try saying the same about the Imperialist United States or British colonialism . To get a pretty city generally requires human suffering.

So Berendt’s blank admiration for Venice for its oldness and prettiness just slightly got on my nerves. Which is totally hypocritical of me, I admit, as I love most old cities for that very reason and why I want to live in one (I never would survive).

As I said, the first chapter of this book made me want to cry. It hurts to hear about the diamonds of history being so easily destroyed—and before I would ever get the chance to see it! Something so beautiful in which went so much work and love, something visited by so many people, and it burns to the ground and everyone loses. I’m not very good at dealing with this stuff, I take it far too personally. I read about libraries burning in Russia and cried for them too. (What book was that?)

Still Berendt gets on my nerves the next chapter  and it has to do with how closely he identifies with the Venetians. What was so lyrical in the first chapter is now rubbing me the wrong way. Because the first few pages of the second chapter is all about how evil the tourists are, and such a pain. (Okay, you’re still not a native, no matter how much you empathize.) And in many ways they are invaders, but as I said before, Berendt has already described Venice as a dead city. People are still living there, but only because the tourists like to visit. I’d hate to think of what would happen to all those beautiful old buildings if they weren’t there to be looked at. And what other industry is there? So far, I’ve read about the art, but art isn’t self-sustainable.

And if there weren’t tourists, it would still be a museum, just not one hat people visited. And once the scholars had their share it would be left to rot—excepting the straggling archeologist and student historian who needs a thesis.

Can I say, here, that I can’t stand people like Berendt describes and transcribes Ludovico De Luigi? As described he’s just obsessed with getting attention. Berendt calls him an artist—but without having seen his art, all I can imagine is one of those post-modernists who confuse concept and flash with art (I don’t think I’m using ‘post-modernist’ correctly, but anything after that art period I don’t know). He (the theoretical artist I’ve switched to rather than the real person) likes to make a lot of noise, and get attention, but his art is nothing that will stand the test of time once people get over the surprise.

*end rant* (of an entirely different subject)

This is by the real Ludovico De Luigi, and is actually pretty cool. If his exploits are true as told by Berendt, though, I still wouldn't want to meet him in person.

Not that I disagree that Venice’s citizens would be an interesting subject. I look forward to learning more about how people deal with living in a dead city—or does their conviction of its ‘aliveness’ convince me? I just wish Berendt had a better understanding of tourists because his whining about them is just a little irritating. (Honestly, it’s rather subtle, and only a few comments over the entire chapter, I’ve just been thinking about it lately.) Why has being a tourist always been such a bad thing?

It seems to be a popular exercise for the intellectual, as far as I can tell, to be intellectual and look down on the plebeians. Which is rather odd because not everyone can be an intellectual and we shouldn’t want them to be—because frankly I would consider myself an intellectual (although I make no claims as to my relative intelligence) but intellectuals on their own aren’t all that useful in regards to practical applications, i.e. getting food to put on the table. Yes, I will make that argument.

Mind you, I’m not referring to stupid obnoxious people (that is, when talking about tourists, not intellectuals) here—because they do exist (and aren’t necessarily American) and they behave exactly the same there as the do at home, I theorize. They aren’t any more loved there either, so give the people who behave at home and abroad a break, eh? (<- where did that come from?) When you have to put up with those people and then find yourself treated like one? Well, I guess that’s what they call a vicious circle. Resentful people don’t make nice visitors and not nice visitors make resentful locals.

That’s my pithy comment for the day.

Don’t Tell Me You Started That Today

….well, yeah.

“That” was actually one of those Star Trek books, can’t remember which, and my brother asked yesterday because he caught me about 3/4 through. And I did not answer “well, yeah” even though I wanted to.

Because that was actually the third such book I’d started that day. Over the past week or so, when my fandom mind switched back to Star Trek from, I think, Sherlock Holmes, I have reread about eight Star Trek: TOS novels. And my reply to my brother when he asked was not sarcastic because, though I read them quickly, I’ve read them all before. Yes I read fast, but I admit in this case I’ve been skimming some…especially in Demons, which has a monstrous Mary Sue character–McCoy’s in love with her and Spock mind-melds with her, AND she has wild red hair and is a super genius. Yeah, I think I only picked it up again because, well, because I’d forgotten how bad she was. There were a few acceptable peril situations however…

Where was I going with this again?

Ah yes. I used to read lots. And then I got trapped by fan fiction, and probably read much less–this was, believe it or not, me be geeky, and more being burned out with college classes and assigned readings. While not as much, such reading is much more exhausting, and I think I was simply burned out for a while, even following graduation.

After graduation comes no job, and me volunteering at the library. So there are lots of books for me to read–including a rather large pile from a buying ‘spree’ a few months back when I did have a little extra money: some, well, now as I try to count them there are almost twenty. Plus the eight books I have yet to finish from the library (I’ve started three).  I do pretty well in keeping up though, at least until my fandom brain takes over–hence the Star Trek. But fandom, at least, is fast reading. When you’re talking series books that don’t have to build characterizations or mostly even worlds, they can go much more quickly. Well. That doesn’t actually count if they don’t get the characterizations right, which is very much a subjective thing now that I think about it. Let’s just go with: they read faster.

In seventh grade, I had a teacher, Mr. Prim, who had some one-page project to measure our reading speeds. I tested at 1200 wpm. The text, I distinctly remember, was from Huckleberry Finn. And I’d read it before. Even then, I remembered that passage. The other passage was from The Prince and the Pauper. I’d read that too. So, I’m not sure how accurate a measure that was.

Although I suppose I can use it to argue that even then I could be called fairly well read (though I couldn’t say that now). Even in fourth grade I’d tested with an ability to parse sentences and paragraphs at above a 12th grade reading level. See, our school had a program called “AR” reading (Accelerated Reader), and after you read a book, you would take a test, and that test would tell you how well you comprehended the test. I scored badly on Les Miserable only because I though, ooh, it’s a hard book, I should make sure I internalize it, and forgot the specific eye colors involved. Also, 1984 changes entirely from middle school to college. That’s a simple example, but you have to realize a program is flawed when it classifies Hemingway at a 4th grade reading level. Whatever “interest level” you give it.

Sans second digression, though I don’t know my “true” reading speed, although one interest test called it 700 wpm, I do read faster than the general population. Which is something like 200 wpm and really, really slow. To me. Poor general population, no wonder you can only read seven books a year. I can’t keep up.

Reading quickly of course has much more to do with general reading habits. And in my case especially, interest in the material. Because novels I can power through in, oh, four hours on average. Or three maybe? Time flies, anyway, so I start reading and them I’m done and depressed because it was over all-too-quickly. When I was rereading the first two Rogue Agent books before reading the third when it came out, I finished all three in one day, two? because I kept putting them down. Stopping takes up plenty of time, no matter how engaging the story.

Non-fiction books take longer.

Which is really hard for me to accept because I love them. I love checking them out. I love buying them. But they just take so long to read. And unlike fiction books, for me, harder to give up. There’s always the chance I will grow out of my fiction books, especially since I love those in series: like Rogue Agent, or Robert Asprin’s Myth books. Actually, those are still going strong, and you’ll pry my Terry Pratchett paperbacks from my cold dead hands (I’m taking the hardcovers with me), but I just managed to give up my Dorothy Cannells and Aunt Dimitys from middle school. But though nonfiction books may become outdated, they never lose information. Even if it’s just historical value.

Like my weird attraction to science books. The Fly in the Cathedral, books like that. I rarely, rarely read them, but I love to have them for when I want to read them. And I will eventually. I really will.

So between reading too quickly, and having an active fandom attraction, I both gather too many books, and don’t read enough. Fortunately, books last. Maybe not hundreds of years, but long enough for me to get around to them. Or maybe my theoretical kids, that I’m not sure I want, but at least I have an excuse for those Hardy Boys and John Bellairs (<–he’s awesome, look him up!).