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Welcome to my fandom musings on Avatar: The Last Airbender and more. Here are some of my main posts (including outside links) grouped by category.

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Some posts, evidently, are forever. My Zutara post is going on five years old and I still get comments on it from time to time, not that that's a bad thing. Most comments are respectful and I reply with like respect. It's the others that flail at me about disrespecting their OTP that truly entertain me, though. It's a guilty pleasure.

A recent set of comments made some particularly irrational pro-Zutara claims that I had great fun kicking apart. Here are some of the lowlights:

5. Zutara is more popular!

"Yes, Zutara is popular. In fact, a recent buzzfeed poll concluded that Zutara is more popular than Kataang by 53% to 47%."

Um, why are you making the very argument that I started my original post with? I'm not sure why the anon thought this factoid would somehow be a revelation to me when I explicitly started my post by referencing the popularity of Zutara and set out to try to explain it.

4. The voice actors and my brother like Zutara

"Oh, and in case you didn't know, BOTH of the voice actors for Zuko and Katara, Dante Basco and Mae Whitman, ship Zutara."

"Pfft, my ten year old brother assumed that Zuko and Katara were lovers."

And the creators of a show called Avatar: The Last Airbender ship Kataang? And also that's the actual canon? The above seems to be some kind of misguided attempt at arguing from authority, but "other people like my ship" isn't a particularly compelling argument for why I should like it and I don't care whether these other people are the creators, actors, or some random fan. Here's a radical idea: How about we each ship what we like without trying to use "Well these other people like this pair!" as an argument for or against.

3. Zuko and Katara are like each others' parents, yay Zutara! But Katara and Aang are like siblings, boo Kataang.

"I definitely see Katara as the type to nurture [Zuko] the way his own mother once had. . . . I don't mean this to be weird, either. Logically speaking, we prefer to find mates with similar qualities our own parents carried. He'd see the warmth she has, and Katara sees the determination in his eyes her own father bears."

This might not be so bad in itself, though it is vaguely creepy, except the anon also said this in their prior post:

"[The anon's ten-year-old brother] thought Aang was [Katara's] brother."

So let me get this straight. Someone reminding you of your mom or dad means sexytimes forevar, but being mistaken for siblings is a death knell to romantic chemistry? Can the anon actually, I don't know, read their own words?

I also take this comment a little bit personally, seeing how my husband and I have been mistaken for siblings. (I'm also older and taller than my husband, so yes I may have a horse in this racemumblemumble) We dated for four years and have been married for three, and that's not even counting the years we were friends before we became an item. Sometimes people who are totally comfortable in each other's company, whether romantically involved or not, can seem so natural that they look like they grew up together. I'm opposed to the idea that this kind of comfort excludes the possibility of romance or means the spark is no longer there or whatever. In fact I think it's genuinely harmful to believe that romance must be perpetually performative and exciting, something I actually discussed in the Zutara posts.

2. Bryke are secret pedophiles who want fourteen-year-old Katara

"you have to realize that the creators aren't really seeing them in terms of compatibility itself, rather what they find to be the most fitting to their own creativity. They see Aang as themselves, and how could they not? It's their right. It Is their show, therefore their vision. It's brilliant, really."

How I have not missed you, old Zutara canard. *barfs forever*

1. My ship is based on events that never happened

"When I'd know [sic] Zuko had returned Katara's necklace to Sokka in order for him to give to her in the episode 'The Waterbending Scroll,' I sensed an instant spark of chemistry right then and there. It sounds absurd, but frankly it was rather sweet to know that he knew how much it meant to her. She was happy about it herself, and throughout the series their interactions continue to hint at something of a deep connection, if you will."

That would be sort of sweet, yes, if it had actually happened. As those who watched and remember the real Avatar: The Last Airbender will recall, however, in truth Zuko never returned Katara's necklace in "The Waterbending Scroll." In fact he used it once again in "Bato of the Water Tribe" to stalk and kidnap Katara and Sokka, and Aang took it from him while kicking Zuko's ass. It was Aang who returned the necklace to Katara, not Zuko. The anon's assertion seems to be part of a tendency of Zutarans to sanitize pre-"Day of Black Sun" Zuko, but it's unusual in that it's a baldly inaccurate factual claim.

I'm also not sure what the anon is going on about when they say "Zuko gave [Katara] nerve and bravery" or that "she just grabbed ahold of it and returned to him what was brought: instincts to follow, light." I'm pretty sure Katara didn't need Zuko to make her brave and that she wasn't a significant factor in his decision to turn away from his father's ways. Not in the canon show, anyway. It's a workable premise for a fanfic, but again it's not what was portrayed as happening in the actual show. I support the anon's right to ship whomever they like for whatever reason. The reasons for that ship become baffling, though, when they seem to be based on misremembered canon and/or fanfic.
Dreamwidth entry URL: http://ljlee.dreamwidth.org/68638.html
I'm not a fan of Sherlock. The show has clever references and is visually well-crafted, but Watson's Throwing Off the Disability in the first episode turned me off big time and I have seen little from subsequent, passing views that there is anything there to interest me.

Nevertheless, when my visiting mother-in-law wanted us to watch The Abominable Bride special I went along with it. Well actually I was like, "Wait, how about Suffragette?" at the last minute but my husband had paid the VOD system by then, so The Abominable Bride it was. Besides, it turned out that our subscription doesn't carry Sufragette anyway.

Spoilers for The Abominable BrideCollapse )

The Abominable Bride left me fairly confirmed in my opinions. (Which is what experience usually does to opinions anyway.) Sherlock is a slick, smart show that draws a lot of drama from the relationships between its well-defined principal characters. It doesn't go much deeper than that, though. This holiday special, like the show itself, doesn't have much in the way of self-awareness or moral authority, and that in a nutshell is why Sherlock doesn't interest me.
Dreamwidth entry URL: http://ljlee.dreamwidth.org/68394.html
Dragon Blade 2015 posterMark was feeling a little down on New Year's and we searched for movies to watch. We both wanted something historical and he hit upon Dragon Blade, a piece of historical fiction (with heavy emphasis on "fiction") that was supposed to portray a clash between the Han Dynasty and Roman Republic on the Silk Road. I remember mentioning this movie to [personal profile] lb_lee a while ago, and it came out in early 2015. With that sexy premise and a star-studded cast of Jackie Chan, John Cusak, Adrien Brody and more, it looked promising in theory. We had both seen the trailer, though, and didn't have very high hopes. Still, we just wanted to see cool battle scenes and turn off the higher brain functions for a while.

The critical brain, however, is not so easily turned off in geeks and ended up making everything gloriously funny. I don't even know where to start. There's the hilariously implausible idea that a branch of the Han military were basically UN Peacekeepers dedicated to keeping the peace on the Silk Road without hurting anyone. (Jackie Chan beating up both sides of a fight to break it up totally counts as hurting in my book, though.) There were the unnecessarily drawn-out fight scenes. There were the huge leaps in the story that left the audience scrambling to fill in the gaps. There were crowds of men screaming in slow-motion about every half hour like they won the Superbowl, while emotional music swelled in the background trying to manipulate the audience into joining in the undeserved emotional moment. It was Hollywood's Greatest Hits put together without any structure or design, making for one of those incoherent movies where you're left wondering at the end what the hell it was all about.

In which I proceed to spoil the entire movieCollapse )

Okay, so not everything was funny and some things were just rage-making and the whole thing sucked. Still, there were some spectatular battles and fight choreography as advertised, and plenty of unintentional comedy to laugh at. The production values were high and would have worked in a better put-together movie. This possible glimpse into the future of Chinese blockbusters--the movie did fairly well in China--is both instructuve and disturbing because, as I said, Dragon Blade learned some of Hollywood's lessons very well. The disturbing part is that the lessons don't stop at overdone CGI effects and manipulative swelling music.


Dreamwidth entry URL: http://ljlee.dreamwidth.org/67880.html

In reponse to a thread going around on Tumblr about young girls being told to cover up, this atheist was actually moved to spouting Bible verses. This interpretation was in a book my mom had about a feminist reading of the Bible, though I have, let's say, spiced it up a little.

"But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell." (Matthew 5:28-29)

This is a revolutionary passage because it upends the idea of the woman (or child, dear God) as a temptress. It's a giant middle finger to the conventional "wisdom" that it's a woman's job to keep herself modest and out of the way of men because men can't be held responsible for their own gaze, urges, and actions once they have been "tempted" by the sight of a female body.

Here Jesus is saying, basically, no, fuck that and fuck you. You've committed adultery and you're the pervert if you've looked on somebody with as an object for your sexual gratification. And no, that's not the same thing as feeling an attraction, I'm talking about what you're doing with that attraction--as something they're doing to you, making it their fault and giving yourself license to treat them as dirty and wrong.

What's that, you have no control over where you look? You have no control over your thoughts and actions? Why then, you're saying your eye is damning you to hell because no, you do not get an exemption from basic personal responsibility by virtue of owning a dick and if your eye does something, news flash, that's you.

But if your eye literally has a will of its own and it's making you sin, then why not cut it the fuck out, man? Yeah, I mean literally. You talk about it like it's demonically possessed and not under your dominion. Well, are you going to let a part of you drag you down to hell? Rip it out! I could say the same for a few other body parts, too. Better missing a few bits in heaven than all of you in hell, eh?

Do not give me this nonsense about having no control over yoursef. Take some responsibility and grow the hell up.

This is anti-purity culture, anti-dress code, anti-slut shaming, anti-body policing rhetoric. Each person takes responsibility for their own thoughts and actions, and no one gets to use the whiny excuse that another person made them act inappropriately just by existing.

Jesus fucking Christ, people, it's been 2,000 years. Let's get our act together.

Dreamwidth entry URL: http://ljlee.dreamwidth.org/67511.html

Stop Saying Star Wars is Buddhist or Taoist

I watched [personal profile] attackfish have a conversation on Tumblr about good/evil dualism in the Star Wars franchise and was amused that her interlocutor was denying such dualism existed in the series. As Fish and I discussed afterward, it is sometimes hard for people who live in a dominant thought system like the Christian duality to recognize that a) they actually subscribe to a very specific and non-universal worldview, and b) this view colors how they view everything else, because that’s what a worldview does.

Fish has a good breakdown in the linked thread on why the Jewish concept of yetzer hara does not map to the Dark Side of the Force as portrayed in the franchise. She also referenced poorly understood Buddhist and Taoist concepts, and as she pointed out, ideas from Buddhism and Taoism used in Star Wars are heavily distorted by a strict moral dualism that is alien to these traditions.

This post is weirdly appropriate for Christmas, come to think of itCollapse )

Face it, Western Star Wars fans, your franchise isn’t based on Asian philosophy. It’s a quintessentially Euro-American and Christian story of the conflict between good and evil, and it’s perfectly enjoyable as such. There’s no need to bastardize concepts from other cultures trying to make Star Wars seem profound or spiritual. You don’t have to, because Christianity is–surprise!–also a spirituality and one associated with respected philosophical traditions. And Asian ideas are no more ornaments to make yourselves seem smart and hip than Asian people are.

(Originally posted on Tumblr. Yeah, I believe they have an app for that now.)


Dreamwidth entry URL: http://ljlee.dreamwidth.org/67138.html

Academic drama

The last two weeks made ripples in water that had lain stagnant for years. It was mainly academic drama, but it got me thinking about my fiction writing as well.

You know those stories where you return exactly where you started but the choices made and growth experienced up to that point make all the difference? Planescape: Torment is a particularly epic example, but you can see it in a lot of "hero's journey" type stories. The hobbits' return to the Shire in The Lord of the Rings comes to mind. I'm sure you can come up with other examples.

That's sort of what happened to me over the past two weeks. I was trying my darnedest to graduate this semester while my advisor thought I wasn't ready yet. I poured everything into proving otherwise, working until 11 or 12 every night trying to put together a thesis that would pass muster.

In the end he decided I still wasn't ready, but he seemed genuinely moved by how hard I was trying and how determined I was. He sat down with me for an hour--on a day when he was teaching nine hours of classes--to give me extremely detailed feedback. I could tell how badly he wanted me to write a really good thesis, one that would make a difference.

Oh look! A giant teal deer!Collapse )

I was at a social occasion over the weekend with my professor, who told a colleague that I'm going to be graduating next semester. I like that idea. Maybe I'll make it and maybe I won't, but it sure is worth the effort. If I learned anything over the past two weeks, it's that my dreams are only as good as the sweat I'm willing to pour into them.
Dreamwidth entry URL: http://ljlee.dreamwidth.org/66903.html

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the poppet and the lune coverThe Poppet and the Lune (2011) by Madeleine Claire Franklin is a novel in the style of a fairy tale, with fantastic elements like witches, werewolves, spells, and a girl created from dead body parts.

Full disclosure, I got this book in audio form as a complementary review copy. About a year ago the narrator Elizabeth Basalto's sister was handing out audiobook review credits on the [community profile] books community, and I finally listened to the book last month because I had such a massive audiobook backlog to go through. This is my promised review.

Overall impression: the story was pleasant enough and the narration was okay. There are a lot of fantastic elements, as mentioned above, and there were genuinely clever and moving moments. However, I don't think the story followed through on what should have been its emotional core, and there were some Unfortunate Implications as a result. I will go into more detail on the story below, and there will be spoilers.

As for the narration,[personal profile] jeweledeyes who gave me the audiobook credit said this was her sister's first audiobook narration and it showed. Ms. Basalto's voice is nice and the delivery earnest, but I noticed some technical flaws and tics that I don't see with more experienced narrators. The performance, to my relief, was more solid than in the trailer video for the audiobook; however, it had the same airy quality that could be grating after a while. The repetitive intonation she used when she said "the patchwork girl," a very common phrase in the book because it refers to the heroine, was something of an annoyance. Still, I thought the voice and story were a good match, and wish Ms. Basalto well in her narration career.

In which I demonstrate why you shouldn"t give me complementary copiesCollapse )

In the end The Poppet and the Lune, despite clever uses of fairy tale elements and entertaining plot developments, undermined its own power by hollowing out what it held out to be its own emotional core. It is many things, fun, colorful, romantic, action-packed, and is also, ultimately, forgettable.


Dreamwidth entry URL: http://ljlee.dreamwidth.org/66625.html

Pern filk: Threadfall

So after tormenting Google Translate into making (rather awesome) gibberish of the Skyfall lyrics, I got what seemed like an obvious idea--a Skyfall filk set in the Dragonriders of Pern universe, titled "Threadfall." I couldn't find anything along these lines other than a fanfic or RP whose title used the parallel, so I wrote one while waiting for a plane to take me home.

Threadfall lyricsCollapse )

Dreamwidth entry URL: http://ljlee.dreamwidth.org/66524.html

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Google Translate sings Skyfall

I had a good long laugh with the Google Translate Sings series [personal profile] chordatesrock  inroduced to me, and particularly loved I'll Make a Man Out of You. On a whim I decided to try the same with Skyfall. Here's a result of five or six layers of Google Translate:

I dropped from the sky...Collapse )

Dropping from the sky decoding? It sure knows what a Bond movie is about. Dreamwidth entry URL: http://ljlee.dreamwidth.org/66133.html

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