Friday, August 30, 2013

Books in 2013: #23 Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan

Another book club pick, Sweet Tooth was recommended by my best friend, who is a huge Ian McEwan fan. I haven't actually read much of his stuff; back in university I read First Love, Last Rites after my British Lit prof suggested it. I enjoyed that one immensely, but not so much Black Dogs, which I later read, and which was too political for my tastes. I have a couple others, but haven't read them.

After this one, however, I'm going to make those others a priority.

This is the story of a woman who becomes an MI-5 agent in the UK in the 1970s, and what happens when she's put undercover in an operation where she has to bring on board a left-wing writer who will write certain material that will be beloved by the public and push a certain agenda that the government wants pushed. But it's what happens during said operation that becomes the crux of the book — her relationship with the writer, her relationship to the agency, and her relationship with a previous lover.

I particularly loved the 1970s setting, because I was a toddler in the 1970s and wouldn't remember anything political at that time, and in the 1980s I just remember vaguely the notion of the Cold War and Thatcherism. In this book you see the beginnings of all of that, and when Thatcher died and so many people came down so hard on her, my husband was one of the few who said, "Actually, maybe people should take a look at the England she came into, and what she was forced to try to fix. The country was deadlocked and not even working, and while yes, she broke unions and didn't make any friends on the left, she actually got things running again." I never gave much credence to what he said (I'm pretty left and he's pretty right and, well, we just seem to be living proof of opposites attracting in that sense), this book certainly made me rethink what he said. Not reevaluate, but certainly rethink.

I thought the ending was particularly fun, and I will say I thought a few times that I could see exactly where the storyline was going before it did an about-face and I was proved completely wrong.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Sir Grumpy McCrank Goes to Fan Expo

Way back in January, I posted on our family going to Florida, and how I took the unhappiest man on Earth (aka my husband) to Disney World, and the grumbling that followed. This weekend I took him to Fan Expo. See, he rarely accompanies me to any appearance. He's never seen me give a paper or a talk, and the last time he came to a fan con with me was probably just after Bite Me (2nd edition) came out, when I was signing with James Leary and Harry Groener from Buffy at Fan Expo a bazillion years ago.

Back then, Fan Expo was tiny compared to what it is now. So you should have seen his face when he walked into the hall this past weekend and saw thousands upon thousands of cosplay fans everywhere. And I have to admit, Grumpy McCrank was actually quite happy. Maybe because there were far more boobs that he was expecting. ;)

As we were heading out, he changed his FB status update to the following: "Going with Nikki Stafford to the Fan Expo. I'm a Fan Expo virgin, but I was still unwilling to break out my stormtrooper costume. Far too warm out today for the helmet." So yeah, I was bringing the guy who thought he was above all the nerdliness. (Don't believe the hype. He can quote every. single. line. from every Star Wars movie. Seriously. And while Christopher Eccleston was my first Doctor, his was Tom Baker.)

He's the second guy from the left. If he denies it, he's lying.

Here are some of the gems from the day:

Him, while we were waiting to get my guest passes: Check out the guy with the giant key! Wait... is he handing it over?!
Me: Yeah, they probably decided it's too dangerous to carry around a con. That thing is pure metal and he could clock someone with it.
Him: Yeah, but what's the point of the costume without the giant key?! Not that I can detect a costume there, but...
Me: Trust me, I've talked to people who cosplayed with large metal objects and they really regretted their decision about an hour into it.
Him: OH MY GOD there's a whole table of confiscated things over there!
Me: That would be the swords and...
Him: There are swords?! Oh man, this is just too good... [clicking various photos on his iPhone... tweeting them...] So let me get this straight. Someone actually was just stopped at the door over there and said, "You mean I can't carry a giant weapon into a crowded room of people in the 21st century? You are kidding me." I can't believe this place.

Upon seeing a group of people dressed in eccentric clothing:
Him: How do you know that some of these people aren't just wearing their clothes? Why would you assume they're dressed up?
Me: Because that guy is wearing a bowler hat and scarf and carrying an umbrella. He's CLEARLY the seventh Doctor.
Him: I am totally tweeting what you just said.

Him: Is that a girl dressed in that tuxedo? How is that a costume?
Me: It's a manga character... or anime, can't remember which... where it's a feminine-looking butler. He's usually accompanied by this dandy guy all dressed in blue. A-ha, notice the other girl in blue beside her? That's what they're cosplaying. Nailed it!
Him: I didn't know you knew anything about manga.
Me: If a manga fan had just heard my description of that outfit, they would tell you I clearly know NOTHING about manga.

Him: What is SHE supposed to be? A mummy who ran out of tape?
Me: Oh my god, that's the girl from Fifth Element! You SAW that movie!
Him: Oh yeah. But... that movie sucked, why would anyone dress up like that person?
Me: It has a HUGE cult following.
Him: Actually, check it out, she has tattoos of Bowie and Tom Waits on her leg. She's cool.

Him: Who's the girl with the purple hair and the thing jammed up her ass?
Me [turning around so fast I nearly break my neck]: That's a thong, dear. God, you made it sound like she'd stuck a bazooka up there. I think she's supposed to be Hit Girl.

Him: Hey, check out Kick-Ass over there. Should I tell him I heard the second movie sucked?
Me: No.

Him: Why is that woman dressed like a big baby?
Me: I... I actually can't answer that one, I have no idea.
Him: I'm getting a picture of that.

Him: Check out Spider-Man over there. He should be wearing a thong, I can see his lines.
Me: Yeah, the costume should be seamless.
Him: Here's a question: do you think Spider-Man wears underwear?
Me: No, Spider-Man designed his costume to strategically contain and protect his junk.
Him: Just a second. I gotta stop here and Facebook that you just said that.

[My favourite quip of the day]:
Him, pointing to a Mystique cosplayer: Check her out. I think she just blue herself.

Him: Hey, let's go over there and see what she's supposed to be. Look at all the photographers!
Me: Wow, that's a great costume. She's super cute.
Him: Is that another manga character? [pulls out his iPhone and holds it up to take a picture]
Me: Yeah. The photographers are all there because she's got her boobs covered with postage stamps and it's the closest thing to x-rated they've seen.
Him: [slowly putting down iPhone] Oh. Yeah. I... guess I shouldn't take her picture then.
[He totally did when I turned around, I just know it.]

Him: Whoa, it's the Stay-Puft marshmallow guy!!! Holy crap, they do things from the 80s?!
Me: Wait, haven't you noticed all the original series Star Trek outfits here? You aren't seriously asking that question? I mean, Knight Rider and KITT are here.

[For the record, he got "tired" before we made it to the other hall, so he missed KITT. I brought my daughter into the show as my guest for an hour and she got to see it instead, but she wasn't very excited.]

Him: Whoa, Zachary Quinto is doing a talk!!
Me: We should go.
Him: No way, I'm not going to see him do a talk.
Me: ?!

Him: OK, can you explain to me why anyone would want to volunteer at this thing?
Me: I dunno, I guess you get to meet famous people?
Him: No you don't, you spend four days dealing with people who yell at you and hate you, and you get absolutely nothing. Meanwhile the company using you as a volunteer is making money hand over fist.
Me: Well, you get into the show for free, maybe that's enough? I'm pretty sure they get to meet cast members and get their pictures taken with them for free? I don't know, actually.
Him: I don't know why anyone would ever volunteer for something like this. Who cares about the stars?
Me: OK. Hypothetical. Your friend who is high up at Live Nation gives you a call and says, "Dude, I have a huge opportunity for you. Bowie is playing tonight and you can come and tune all of his guitars before the show for free." You'd totally do it.
Him: No I wouldn't. Live Nation is a huge organization that could pay me and I would never do it for free.
Me: YOU ARE SUCH A LIAR. You would totally tune Bowie's guitars.
Him: Nope, not if they didn't pay me.
Me: You = LIAR.

Him [as we were leaving]: That is a LOT of walking around. It was fun, but the best part was that Doctor Who panel we went to where your authors were talking. [About their new book Who's 50, which is available very soon and was for sale at the show!]
Me: But that's how you break up the day and sit for a bit. We could have gone to the Zachary Quinto talk right after it.
Him: Nah, I don't want to pay extra to see a talk. I honestly don't know what the 40 buck ticket gets you, to be honest. You pay money to be let into a hall where you PAY MONEY to buy more comic books?
Me: Dude, the talks are part of the ticket. You wouldn't pay anything extra to hear him talk. They gouge you when you want an autograph or a photo. We would just have slipped right in to the talk and sat at the back.
Him: Oh! Well in that case I would have absolutely gone to that talk.
Me: [facepalm]

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Doctor Who with a 5-Year-Old: 1.01 Rose

A few months ago I watched The Rings of Akhaten with my five-year-old son, and I blogged about it here. It was fun watching him hiding his face one minute, and asking a million questions non-stop. At that point I decided I'd start watching the entire series with him. And then we got sidetracked by The Sarah Jane Adventures. Well... until an insanely terrifying evil clown popped up near the beginning of season 2, and it scared the bejesus out of him. So we're taking a break from that for a while as I apologized to him that no one had told me the clown from It was going to be in this supposed children's show.

Side note here... when there was a lot of speculation in advance of the announcement of the Twelfth Doctor, he heard my husband and I discussing whether or not the Doctor should finally be a woman, to which my son replied, "But there HAS been a woman Doctor... Sarah Jane!!" ;)

Today we watched "Rose." The first episode of the Ninth Doctor, and the beginning of what we call the New Series (despite the fact it's not exactly new anymore).

Him: Who's that?
Me: That's Rose, she's going to be the Doctor's new companion. Spoilers!
Him: What's a spoiler?
Me: Never mind.
Him: Why is she getting back on the elevator? Is this going to be scary? [pulls blanket up to chin]
Me: I don't know!
Him: I thought you told me you'd seen this before!
Me: I don't want to give away anything, though.
Him: This is going to be scary, isn't it?? [pulls blanket higher]

Me: Nah, it's actually kinda funny.
Him: AH!! The plastic people are alive!!!
Me: OH NO!! AAH!
Him: AH!
Me: Oh! Who just grabbed Rose's hand?!
Him: It's the DOCTOR!!!!
Me: Yay!
Him: Whoa, his sonic screwdriver is blue?! That's AWESOME. [pause] Why are all the people so worried about Rose?
Me: She works at the building that was just bombed, and they were worried she was still in the building.
Him: But she's RIGHT THERE, why are they worried?
Me: I guess it would be like if I heard something had happened down at your school, I'd race down to your school and you and your sister would be just fine, but I'd still be worried and upset because of what I'd thought.
Him: Oh. Ha! The Doctor's back! And... ooh, ah!! The hand's got him! Hahaha, look it's got him, Mommy, and Rose doesn't even notice! AH, now it's got HER!!! Wait... how did he turn it off with the sonic screwdriver?
Me: That sonic screwdriver is pretty magical.
Him: Yeah, it is... what is she typing?
Me: She's on the internet trying to figure out who the Doctor is.
Him: But doesn't she already know? He's famous! I know who he is.
Me: Not in her world, he isn't.
Him: Does he live in our world?
Me: Sadly, no. But we can imagine that he does.
Him: Who's that guy?
Me: She's going to his house because he had a website that said he wanted to talk to anyone who had seen the Doctor. See those pictures? Those are from history. That was a president in the United States and see that car he's in? He was shot and killed that day.
Him: That didn't actually happen in our world, right?
Me: Yeah, it did, unfortunately. But it was a long time ago, when your grandparents were really young.
Him: OH! That garbage pail is going to eat that guy. I just know it.
Me: I don't know...
Him: But I thought you already SAW this episode!! See?! It just ate him!! Don't worry, the Doctor will save him, right? Right, Mommy?
Me: Hm...

Him: Mommy, RIGHT?! The Doctor always saves him. I don't believe you right now... the Doctor will save everyone. Wait... he looks weird, like a doll!
Me: UH OH, it looks like Mickey is made of plastic now!! You know what I can never figure out with this episode??
Him: Why can't Rose tell that he's not real?
Me: THAT. That is what I can never figure out... how come she doesn't realize that's not Mickey?
Him: That's silly... I don't like him, Mommy. He's looking at her in a weird way in the restaurant. I don't want to watch him now.
Me: Look, someone's trying to give them champagne!
Him: I don't think I want to watch, Mommy! [Blanket is being pulled up]
Me: Who's holding the champagne??!!
Him: AH, it's the Doctor! I TOLD YOU he would save them!!!
Me: They're heading for the TARDIS! It's always fun to see a companion walk into the TARDIS for the first time.
Him: He just told her he was an alien! Hahaha... he's not an alien!
Me: He is an alien, actually. The Doctor is from another planet, remember? He has two hearts.
Him: But... he's a good alien, right? Not a bad one. He's not like THE SLITHEEN! [So far, my son's favourite alien, from season 1 of Sarah Jane.]
Me: He's a good alien, yes. And actually, the Slitheen are coming up in an episode this season!
Him: What's that goopy thing??
Me: That's the Nestene Consciousness. It's controlling all the plastic in the world and can bring it to life or not.
Him: I'm scared. They're going to throw the Doctor in there. They won't hurt him, will they? What do you mean, come to life?
Me: Like... if the Nestene Consciousness turned all plastic on right now, those Lego men on the coffee table would come to life and come after us.
Him: They're tiny. I could totally beat them if they did.
Me: True, but... UH OH! Rose's mom is going into the mall!!
Him: The plastic people are coming to life again!
Me: Wait til you see what they have in their hands!
Him: What is that? It's just a hole!
Me: It's a gun, actually, but they're being careful not to make it too scary for you. Look, Rose is swinging on the chain, she's going to save them all!!
Him: Yay, I knew the Doctor would win. The Nis-thing Connellness is going away.
Me: He's asking Rose if she wants to go with him. If the Doctor asked you if you wanted to join him on his adventures, would you go with him?
Him: Hm. I don't know. Would you be able to come with me?
Me: Oh, I don't know. I guess you'd have to ask the Doctor that.
Him: If he would let me bring you with me, then yes, I'd go with the Doctor.
Me: Me too.