End of Year Catchup

Clearly my initial plan to get caught up didn’t happen. Let’s just summarize it this way, virtual school, actual school, work overtime, work training, virtual school again, medical stuff, lots of appointments, oh look it’s Christmas! Currently I have about 7 pending reviews for things that I have finished reading but not yet done the review. My goal is to get those out this week, then focus on books that authors have sent me because I had planned on delivering those months ago. Whew. Lots of fun upcoming.

A New Year, A New Novel

I am going a little bit outside my normal blog routine to talk about the new year of National Novel Writing Month.

I realized today that this is the fourteenth year I will be participating in Nano. Sometimes I completed the 50,000 word goal, sometimes other life priorities got in the way. But every year I tried. I had an idea and I committed to paper.

This year is a bit of a different feeling. This is a story idea I’ve been playing around with all year. The characters have come to me over time, developing their personalities a little bit at a time. The plot is clearly formed in my mind from beginning to end. And it’s an entirely different genre than I have ever written before, romance!

Compared to other years, I have planned this book to death. I have character outlines, relationship outlines, and chapter outlines. I have always been a fly by the seat of my pants writer and gone into a book with a vague plot idea and just let the inspiration flow. So this will be an entirely new experience for me. I can’t say yet if it will work for me, but I’ll keep you updated for sure.

And romance, my gods that scares me. I am a blood and guts type writer. I have played around in the playgrounds of suspense, thriller, horror, paranormal, urban fantasy, high fantasy. And naturally sometimes a romantic storyline develops in those stories. But I am very intimidated by the idea of playing in the romance playground.

Wish me luck!

Unexpected break and back to the grind

I didn’t intend to take a week off the blog, but life sometimes decides to throw a bomb in the middle of our worlds and laugh at the chaos. That is what happened to me this week.

My daughter got to start in-person kindergarten. So we had a whole new adventure of figuring out drop off/pick up and working with her to wear her mask and be familiar with the other rules. Since she’s never been in preschool or anything similar to school, this was a task.

Then we celebrated my birthday at the same time, so spent some time as a family going to the zoo and having a date with the husband.

And then all of a sudden it’s a week later! I will be getting back to the grind on Thursday though, with the review of To Sleep in a Sea of Stars as promised in the last new releases post.

The Nightmare of Virtual Schooling

I’ll probably be taking a few days off from the blog because we just started virtual school for our kindergartner. I know, it sounds crazy. And it is. It is hard enough for a kinder teacher to keep the attention of seventeen 5-year olds in a classroom.

Then add in tech problems that mean people are popping in and then out all day. Us included because we couldn’t get back into class for almost an hour at one point. Then add in that half the time Zoom was freezing up and not allowing the teacher to hear or see most of the class. It was just a disaster. They ended up wrapping up two hours early because everyone was frustrated from the teacher to the parents to the students.

Sigh. I am so over this covid nonsense. Can I just prove my child already had it and send her to school please? This Zoom business is a nightmare.

Anyway, that was basically a full time job today and I am exhausted. So taking a few days off to concentrate on my child’s “education.”

Radio Silence

My apologies for the radio silence over the weekend everyone. I have been dealing with feeling mildly sick for a week or so and then suddenly on Friday I just got hit by the sick bus. So just touching base to say that I will likely be out of commission for a few more days. Then, hopefully, I will have some reviews to share. What have you all been reading? Anything to recommend?

Compare/Contrast Movies: Joker and Parasite

I know what you’re probably thinking. Why on earth would I be spending time writing about two vastly different movies to compare or contrast them. These thoughts started with a discussion between my husband and myself. We both love the Joker movie. We’ve talked about it at length and watched it several times now. We watched Parasite the other night and he felt there were a lot of thematic similarities between the movies. I did not. It led to a rousing discussion that made me think about it and decide to share with you.

Warnings first: Both of these movies will be discussed thoroughly, that means spoilers. If you do not wish to be spoiled, please read no further.

Joker: This movie follows the journey of Arthur Fleck, who will become the famed Joker of the Batman universe. He is a deeply disturbed man. We learn almost immediately that he has hallucinations and we cannot entirely trust what he tells us. The movie follows him through his struggles to be a productive member of society before eventually deciding that society doesn’t care about people like him and he wants to burn it all down.

Parasite: This movie follows a South Korean family who scheme and lie their way into working for a wealthy family, literally becoming a parasite on their lives. But they run into some houseguests that they didn’t expect and it all leads to a violent end.

Obviously, both of these movies deal with classism and how society treats certain fringe elements. In Joker, it is Arthur who is struggling to hold down a job with severe mental illness. In Parasite, it is a poverty stricken family who is willing to do anything to improve their lot in life.

Both of these movies deal with the sociopathic nature of our larger society that wishes to ignore people on the fringes. Ignore the crazy man laughing to himself on the subway, it’s not your problem. Feel free to call your house staff and ask them to help you prepare for a party regardless of what tragedy may have just befallen them. In some cases the party is intending to be cruel, in others they are merely ignorant. The boys who attack Arthur Fleck on the subway are intending to be cruel, the people who look the other way are just trying to protect themselves from a similar fate. In Parasite, the wealthy family is ignorant to the fact that their staff might not be able to accommodate their need because, after all, isn’t that their job? It’s not done out of vindictiveness, it’s done out of a privileged ignorance.

But the ending of these movies is where we have a divergence. And it is also why I believe Joker is the superior movie.

Joker is telling us a very personal story about a man who was let down by his society. Arthur tries. He tries so hard. He goes to see his therapist, until she gets let go because of budget cuts. He goes to work, even though it means getting mugged a lot of the time and then punished for it. He takes his medication, even when it isn’t being managed properly. Arthur is a man who desperately wants to be able to survive in a cruel world. He keeps getting kicked down and every single time he gets up. He idolizes people that appear to have integrity and sets his sights on accomplishing something that will impress them. And they let him down too. Ultimately that is the final straw. When he is abandoned by Thomas Wayne, his alleged father, and Wayne decides to demean his mother while he’s at it. Realizing he spent his whole life caring for his mother when she was his first abuser. Then he is invited to be on the show of his surrogate father figure and realizes that he is only there so the audience can laugh at him. He’s had enough. In my opinion he went to the Murray show with the intention on killing himself, until he realizes that Murray is just one more person who wants to kick him while he’s down and laugh at him. In that moment he decided that maybe he isn’t the problem, society is the problem. And he, Arthur Fleck, is going to give them what they deserve. What they’ve always given him. It’s a heartbreaking cautionary tale for a society that is ever increasingly self-absorbed.

Now on to Parasite. The themes here are largely similar. The poor family seems to be wanting to improve their lot in life, by getting jobs with a wealthy family. But they aren’t doing so in an admirable way. They lie, cheat, and poison the existing staff so that they can take their jobs. Then they sit in their new employer’s home and laugh at them. They mock them and their wealth and decide that they deserve to be ripped off. This family has done nothing to them at this point except give them jobs and be kind to them. But even their kindness is spat on with the comment “must be easy to be nice when you’re rich.” This movie seemingly casts the wealthy family as bad simply because they are wealthy. Later on the family does go some cruel things, like commenting on the poor smell of the father and joking about it…..done in private and shouldn’t have been overheard but it was still not right. When the story ultimately erupts into violence it is not out of desperation, it’s out of anger. Anger that the rich man is more concerned for his son then their daughter, even though their daughter was harmed as a result of their own actions. It didn’t matter that all of this came to pass because THEY attacked people and tried to kill them, no it was the rich person’s fault. And at the very end the movie gives you the message that it doesn’t matter how hard you try, you can never make it. The boy makes a dream to buy the big house and rescue his family from poverty, but it’s just a dream and we’re reminded of what his father said…that not having a plan is better because at least you won’t be disappointed when it doesn’t happen.

This is the single biggest difference in the message of the two movies. Joker is telling society at large that they have the choice not to create someone like Arthur Fleck. We are shown our failings in stark relief and told explicitly that we don’t have to be those people. Parasite is telling society that it doesn’t matter, the rich people will always laugh at you and it’s useless to try to better your life because you won’t succeed anyway. Personally, I prefer the first message.

Scouring the ‘ole TBR list

My TBR (to be read) list on Goodreads has skyrocketed out of control. I believe it is past the point of being so long I could never read every book on it in my lifetime. Recently, I decided to scour the list and remove some books that I am just not interested in anymore, or that might be unavailable after all this time. And I also have decided to set myself a challenge. I want to read at least 5 books this year that are the absolute oldest on mt TBR list. Which brings me to my list of oldest books I want to read (apparently when I first started on Goodreads I was on a classics kick). All of these books were added to my TBR in June of 2011:

4981

18490

7126

24280

153747

I know I can’t be the only one with an absurdly long TBR list. What’s the oldest book on your list?

Reflections on Soap Operas and Professional Wrestling

I have been a watcher of Soap Operas since I was born. My mother watched all the typical soap operas for the time, General Hospital, Young and the Restless and her favorite Bold and the Beautiful. While she stopped watching Y&R and GH by the time I started school, B&B was our show. We watched it together for years. As an adult I kept watching it and except for a few years time after I had my daughter, I continue to watch. Thankfully the CBS app is helping me catch up on what I missed!

I have also been an on and off again fan of professional wrestling. I started watching WWE in the mid-ish 90s and I was hooked. Funnily enough, that is how I met my husband. We bonded over our shared love of professional wrestling. I loved the drama of it (yeah, I know, I’m a total girl) and the showcase of a story combined with an athlete contest.

This led me to some thoughts recently about these two depictions of dramatic story. They really are not that different. In fact, I would venture that wrestling is a soap opera designed to appeal to sports people. My husband said that to me the other day and I haven’t been able to shake the idea from my head since.

Soap operas have a wide cast of characters and often there are multiple storylines going on at once. For example in my beloved B&B you’ll have concurrent storylines about Brooke and Bill getting married, Katie getting engaged to Ridge, Ridge desperately trying to break up Brooke’s wedding, and Quinn sending Ridge on that quest by showing him a naughty selfie of her and Bill. Those are the main storylines for awhile, but you also have a few background storylines, the relationship between Aly and Oliver, Hope vacillating between Liam and Wyatt, Maya trying to get Rick back, Rick and Ridge battling for control of the company. All of these will be going on at the same time and over the course of about five or six months. Then the storylines are slowly replaced so there’s always a constant evolution.

Professional wrestling is exactly the same. You’ll have a rivalry between your two top strong guys, usually vying for a title. There will be several other races for titles. All of this is planned months in advance. The balance of who wins, how they win, and why they win is carefully orchestrated to tell the story that the booker wants to be told. For example, currently I watch AEW Wrestling. It’s a new promotion and really great. You have a battle between MJF and Cody Rhodes, not for a title but for a very personal vendetta. Cody was MJF’s mentor, until he betrayed Cody and caused him to lose a match back in December. This has led to a heated rivalry between the two, with Cody demanding a match between them and MJF agreeing only if Cody meets his terms. Add in every increasingly crazy terms and this grudge match is getting serious. Fans are practically salivating over the match between these two. Another crowd favorite is Darby Allin. He’s a middle card guy, very punk rock inspired, tight jeans, face paint, skateboards to the ring and probably listens to hours of My Chemical Romance all day. By all accounts, this is not a guy who I would have guessed that the audience would love. I thought he was a joke at first. Until they started selling me his story. He can’t seem to win. He tries. Dammit he tries harder than anyone else in that company. He gets beat over and over and over again and then comes back to try harder. And I love him. This underdog story is the most loved thing in the company right now. And all of this is a stage production. It’s a show. A show that was orchestrated months ago to play on my emotions. Drama, intrigue, romance, and violence. Just like the ever beloved soap operas.

 

Day 1 of Nano and a movie review

The first day of another Nano Wrimo is over! I did not do as much novel prep as I would have liked, but getting a cold 4 days before the beginning of the challenge will do that to you. But I did more planning than I ever have, so I am counting that as a win. I had been struggling with the beginning of my novel, this is fairy typical for me. I struggle with the perfect way to start and so I often will start somewhere in the middle of things and work my way to either end. But as I sat down at the page today it came to me. I knew the most enticing beginning. And then the words started to come. 2,181 words in the bag! Wahoo!

 

Today, I also went to see the Joker movie. I have been planning on seeing it but with a spouse, child, day job, reviewing, reading, and my million other hobbies, I had not gotten around to it yet. All I really can say is, wow. This movie was unlike any other superhero movie I’ve ever seen. It doesn’t really belong in that genre at all. This is a story about a man. A man named Arthur Fleck. A man that society dropped through the cracks and didn’t even notice that they had dropped him. Everyone knows how the story ends, he becomes the Joker and becomes the greatest villain Gotham and Batman ever face. But how did he get there? That’s the story they were endeavoring to tell.

Part of the mystique of Joker is that it’s never completely clear how he became a villain. Every time he’s asked about it he tells a different story. And it’s never clear if that’s because he’s lying or he’s just so delusional that he honestly doesn’t know. I was worried that by telling this story that mystique would be removed but it isn’t. You are told very early on that Arthur has delusions. So, what portion of his history is the truth? As a viewer, I can’t say for sure. I can’t honestly say which parts were his delusion and which were real, and that was part of the point. Arthur is the forgotten man. The one who society knows nothing about but likes to think that they do.

I think this was one of the best movies I’ve ever seen. It was completely flawless in its storytelling. It was also a profoundly sad movie. I found myself hoping that Arthur would catch a break, finally get ahead, have some shred of hope. And then I would be heartbroken time and again when he was kicked back down. It was a very emotionally heavy movie. It pulls no punches with just how glum Arthur’s life is. I felt emotionally drained when I left the theater, satisfied with the story I saw and sad for the poor character within it. It was an amazing movie, but I am not sure I want to watch it again anytime soon.

Confessions

I have severely neglected this blog lately, sorry about that. But I have a good reason, so I am confessing.

 

 

I haven’t been around because, I’ve been busy being pregnant. Yep, you heard me right I am 4 months pregnant with a baby girl. I was hoping to have a good ultrasound picture to post, but the little one didn’t want to cooperate today and was only showing us the butt lol.  Maybe next time.

 

 

girl