Fashion Friday :: oop, gotta fill in our (pinup) new Avengers!

29 May

Starting with Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen) because I love her and I don’t care.

lesley-anne dress in black with black tulle (laura byrnes)

See, the fact that MCU Wanda is a “Goth ballerina” and dresses like a “disaffected grunge teenager” (both of these are quotes from a conversation my drift partner and I are having about this) is incredibly endearing to me.  The fact that she’s this walking deus ex machina of a girl who presents so almost delicately fascinates me.  Lesley-Ann Dress in Black with Black Tulle, Laura Byrnes at Pinup Girl Couture.

Okay, no, this is pretty much just Wanda’s jacket anyway.  I just really like it.  Star Studded Leather Jacket, Doma.

Greet Your Day Socks in Black

And I also just love Wanda’s damn wonderful socks.  Greet Your Day Socks in Black, ModCloth.

Flying First-Sass Heel in Black

Always a good choice.  Flying First Sass Heel in Black, ModCloth.

Arm warmers also make me very happy.  Black velvet fingerless gloves, estylissimo at Etsy.

This is important because of reasons.  Neurotransmit Your Love Necklace, ModCloth.

–your fangirl heroine.

he threw things on the floor

Theatre Thursday :: our thoughts on Jasper in Deadland

28 May

So it’s been quite a long time since I saw a show “in previews,” but conveniently, Seattle is a decent place to do that, and I happened to find out about one that was showing up there all through this month.  It’s already had its closing weekend, but there’s no telling where it will end up, and I hope that’s somewhere in New York because, well, it’s a hell of a lot more interesting than a lot of the stuff I’ve seen on the Tonys in recent years.

The show is Jasper in Deadland, which is a rock musical about a boy who travels to the underworld to get his best girl friend back from… being dead.  And wackiness ensues.  I admit my initial response upon reading that was “oh no, compulsive heteronormativity?” but I was pleasantly surprised by the plot and how it was presented.

I was a little wary too, for similar reasons, but when I saw that it was getting advertised as being similar to Rent and Spring Awakening I was intrigued enough to want to go along with it. I am a bad theater person and don’t really do research beforehand if I haven’t seen the show before, so I didn’t know until we got there that it’s meant to be a retelling of Orpheus and Eurydice. I love Greek mythology stuff so that pretty much sold me before it even started. This show, of course, takes a slightly different approach: the eponymous Jasper and his friend Agnes are not lovers, they are…something else. The “it’s complicated” Facebook status was made for them. But characters do make references to the pair of Greek lovers, so this story is less of a technical retelling and more inspired by the myth. It’s kind of weird and interesting and I haven’t seen a lot of things that straddle the line like this. To further complicate things, he’s joined by Gretchen, a Deadland tour guide who begins to remember pieces of her old life the more she’s around Jasper…but that might not be a good thing.

So Jasper goes to save Agnes, right, winding up in the underworld, which isn’t exclusively in the Greco-Roman tradition, although Pluto does oversee, the river Lethe (and its also eponymous proprietor, who comes off the sleaziest businessman you could ever imagine) is a key plot point, and Elysium is a facet.  But there’s also a factory of torture overseen by Little Lu (a hillbilly Lucifer) and Virgil is the ferryman and Ammit the lion-hippopotamus-crocodile demon of Egyptian mythology guards the gate to Elysium and… well.

One of my favorite parts of the show was their interpretation of Cerberus, who has been portrayed in so many ways in fiction (off the top of my head, having two “dumb heads” and one smart one in the Death’s Daughter series and being a literal dog with dog-level intelligence in Percy Jackson). I’m not sure that I’ve ever seen a story give the heads multiple genders, though: this show’s Cerberus has two male heads and a female one. I don’t know that there was a “point” to it, but it was interesting. And the way that they staged it was really interesting too: the three actors held giant dog heads on sticks, and had wires to move their jaws when they “spoke,” and the eyes would glow yellow or red. This gives you an idea of what it looked like. I don’t know a lot about stage props, I just thought it looked really cool. And my other favorite part was whenever Loki and his daughter Hel showed up, because those two actors were just having the time of their lives belting “I AM LOKI!” “I AM HEL!” to announce their presence two out of three times. They were sent to retrieve Jasper for Lethe, but they’re the most incompetent pair and basically are just there to act as buffoons and chase Jasper and Gretchen around the stage. I am a woman of simple pleasures and they made me laugh every time.

As far as tone goes, I would say this has more in common with Spring Awakening than Rent, in actuality, though not that much in common with either.  (There are the typical teenager themes, which helps pull it that way, and also some of the choreography was in Spring’s style, the organized chaos sense of things.  Oh, and Matt Doyle was in it, doing a very good job carrying the thing.  I never saw him as anything more than a swing in Spring Awakening, but I’ve heard good things, and I understand them.)  Tonally, it felt more like Reefer Madness, except the subject matter is more serious than that show and also it’s more earnest and less parodying, and the ending is happier.  The finale number actually felt closer to the Next to Normal finale for me, which got a few shivers up my spine in a nice way.

Also, it’s one of those shows where everyone in the chorus also plays multiple featured roles, so everyone got to show off like mad.  And the book was cowritten by Hunter Foster.

Overall, damn good time and it actually pulled off a plot twist, which is not always something that happens in live theatre. It’s probably too weird to go mainstream, but I hope it does. It deserves to.

–your fangirl heroines.

Whimsy Wednesday :: in which friendship bracelets are secretly evil and Minako is an earnest but terrible nurse.

27 May

You’d think that Usagi would be able to use moon magic to get to class on time.

But hey, there’s her friends!!  Umino and Naru.  We’ve forgotten then until right now but it’s a plot they can be involved in!

Those are not promise rings.  Those are friendship bracelets.  Those are bracelets you make out of embroidery floss that you stitch together in patterns while it’s taped to the table.  We never wished on them, but all right then.

Yeah like…“promise ring” carries a very specific connotation for me. It makes me think of promising your virginity to Jesus or sometimes your father, depending on the level of creepiness of the particular sect of Christianity. It makes me want to run the fuck away.

We’d also do hair wraps, where you do similar kinds of knots with embroidery floss in your hair.  Those were a big pain in the ass because you’d have to cut them off your hair basically and it was not, if I remember, particularly likely to end well.

“I will fill this filthy Tokyo with Dark Power.”  If the villains are always so disdainful of Earth and specifically of Tokyo why the hell do they want it so much.

Why on earth did Mako just blush while explaining believing in wishes to Usagi?

I remember doing these so viscerally.  It was such a thing to do, at least in my various craftsy after school/summer programs.

There’s a textbook for this class? Jesus. I mean I know it’s a coverup but still.

Well, I never took a class in it but I remember having a book of patterns and things.  Although I think my book was one that came with a set of like, metallic embroidery thread that was special and weird to work with so maybe that’s why.

“This probably isn’t an ordinary dream.”  No shit?  “It’s a prophetic dream showing the future.”  Honestly, do you have anything but?

Why didn’t Usagi’s parents notice that Usagi OR CHIBU-USA left the house in the middle of the night?  That’s suspicious parenting.

Y’know, it’s amazing that these girls trust anything new in this town anymore. Considering their track record and all.

I assume there must also be new shops that open that don’t turn evil, we just don’t see them?  But I really don’t know, man.  I really don’t.

ONE RING fuck I’m laughing so much

Also, “impudent little twit.”  Definitely had to rewind and make sure that didn’t say what I thought it did the first time, which… was not “twit.”

“You are a droid with an ugly heart” as opposed to…?

Um, that’s racist. CLEARLY C3PO has a beautiful heart!!!

Hee yes, he does, but in what “droid” means in this context, y’know.  They have yet to meet the beautiful-hearted kind, and the beautiful-hearted kind likely does not exist.

“We are on the scene.”  Yes you sure are!  Such attack!

“You cocky Pretty Guardians!”  As opposed to you, who is selfless and good?

Did he just make galloping noises while he ran off?

“Worries bring out the beauty in a girl…” then I oughta be fucking stunning.

WELL.  Y’know.

I vaguely remember this one, I think.  Horrifying droid with syringe arms.  Nope.

That puffy fan seems like the least practical thing.

Aw Minako’s horrible attempts at playing nurse.  She’s so enthusiastic.  She’s trying so hard.

Personally, I’ve never had that sort of reaction to too much salt, but I guess normal people don’t…like salt that much lol.

Normal people also can’t explode stereos by poking their buttons.

Esmeraude’s decision to have the statues made as pinups of herself was a poor one, as pinups don’t really work when you’re dealing with the hard angles of rocks.

Was Minako just standing there with the sheet wrapped around her like a cape, waiting for an opportunity?

I think a great deal of Minako’s life is waiting for opportunities.

The cathead ball has a frilly apron on.

“Usagi, we’re still in middle school, you know.”  And everyone else’s voices in the nightmare also telling Usagi she’s too young for this shit.  Brilliant.

I appreciate that that dream made no sense. Too many shows have dream sequences that are logical.

“Because I feel at ease around you.”  As Minako praises the hell out of Usagi.  I feel like the two of them are one of the more fan-arted ladyships.  Or maybe it’s Minako and Rei.  Or both, I don’t remember.

gaaaaaaaaay

Much disguise.  Very doctor.

Chibi-Usa sweetheart I feel your pain and fear baby.  Needles are the actual worst!

“You bad people are unforgivable!”  And “I will rain love’s heavenly punishment on you!”

Esmeraude ssssshhh good grief you’re giving the plan away.

That rose stem just shattered a needle. Does he sharpen them???

“Hospitals are a haven of life” good grief Tuxedo Kamen good grief.

“Let’s get rid of the cause of the flu!”  Except it’s extra cute when Mercury says it because Ami wants to be a doctor and she wants to end flus!!!!!

“I love the energetic you!” Sooooo I’m a bad person and the first thing I thought was “their relationship is fucked if she ever develops some chronic illness, then.”

I also like how…apparently the people-flu affects the cats.

I’m so curious where they get their nurse uniforms, too.

–your fangirl heroines.

oops

Television Tuesday :: 5 reasons why Avatar: The Last Airbender is one of the best shows of the last 20 years

26 May

Another piece entirely by my drift partner, as I am one of the sad souls still uninitiate to this wonder (which we intend to remedy).

I’m not sure that most people would think about animated shows when they talk about the best shows of the last 20 years. Maybe The Simpsons would get a mention. Most people definitely wouldn’t think of a fantasy cartoon on Nickelodeon aimed at 8-14 year olds. But I’d like to propose that in terms of narrative, writing, character development, and general quality, Avatar: The Last Airbender is objectively one of the greatest shows in the last 20 years of television.

The show presents a fairly simple story: Four nations, centered around the elements of water, earth, fire, and air, coexist in harmony and balance, with certain citizens from each nation having the ability to “bend” or manipulate their respective elements. One person, the Avatar, is reborn every generation with the ability to bend all four elements and presides as an ambassador amongst the four nations. This balance is shattered when the Fire Nation begin a war against the other nations, and the current Avatar, a young Air Nomad named Aang, is apparently killed along with the rest of the Air Nomads. However, he was merely frozen in an iceberg for a hundred years (think Captain America), and he awakes one hundred years later to find his world in chaos. Along with his newfound Water Tribe companions, he must learn the other elements and restore balance to the world before it’s too late.

It’s a pretty standard Chosen One narrative, or at least it seems that way on the surface. But here are five reasons why I think this show is one of the greatest shows in recent memory.

5.
The show is inspired by a variety of East and South Asian cultures (Chinese, Japanese, Tibetan, Korean, Indian, Inuit) while being respectful and celebratory of its influences rather than appropriative. The show was created by two white men, Bryan Konietzko and Mike DiMartino, but from the beginning they were very careful to show the proper respect for the Asian cultures they were taking inspiration from. For example, they hired martial arts expert Sifu Kisu to develop different techniques for each nation’s bending – waterbenders use Tai Chi forms, while Ba Gua is the basis of firebending. Cultural consultant Dr. Siu-Leung Lee translated all of the Chinese writing featured in the show, and every bit of it is readable if one knows the language. Many concepts, such as chakra opening and meditation, are based on or inspired by actual religious or cultural elements of a particular country or region. This show is an excellent example of how to pay homage to a particular culture or cultures without crossing the line into appropriation.

4.
To continue with that thread, every single character in the series is a person of color. Every single one. Some of them are “coded” to fit anime conventions (i.e. Aang has large eyes because in anime, large eyes are meant to represent innocence, and that in no way detracts from the fact that he and the rest of the Air Nomads are meant to be Tibetan monks), but they are all meant to be Asian and Inuit. The Water Tribe, for example, is clearly based off of Inuit culture, while the Fire Nation tends Japanese/Chinese and the Earth Kingdom is most likely Korean. There are a variety of skin tones and hair colors – largely symbolic, as the Water Tribe people have blue eyes and the Fire Nation mostly gold – but there are no blond-haired blue-eyed Europeans to be found here. It’s refreshing, since I can’t recall the last time I saw a fantasy show on TV with a majority POC cast, let alone without any white people at all. (American Dragon: Jake Long? But that had a white girl as a lead, I think.) It’s an anomaly of a show, and a beautiful one.

3.
The popular trend on TV right now, especially with adult shows but in some cases children’s media too, is to go Darker and Edgier and portray a world in which everything is horrible and most of the characters are terrible people. This is done for ~realism~, I think, but it’s wearying. Avatar staunchly refuses to let go of the idea that there is goodness and beauty and hope to be found even in the worst of situations. Which is not to say that the show is a nonstop parade of cloying positivity – the characters do feel sadness, anger, even despair. But underneath there is an optimism, a stubborn belief that kindness and love will prevail over anger and hate. Aang, as mentioned, is a monk and was raised to be pacifist and always, always use words and defensive measures. This comes into sharp contrast with the militaristic Fire Nation culture and especially the first season antagonist Commander Zhao, who is willing to stop at nothing to achieve his goals of capturing the Avatar. And later, Aang has to face the reality that if he wants to save the world, he has to kill the Fire Lord. This knowledge tears at him, because it’s the opposite of the way his people taught, but he can’t see another way to end the war. And…well, I won’t spoil, but I think the series finale is a beautiful illustration of the unending hopefulness of the series.

2.
Which actually brings me to my next point: the “villains” are not all cartoon villains who kick puppies and laugh maniacally. When we’re introduced to the Fire Nation, we see cruelty and ruthlessness, and in the case of the outcast Prince Zuko, a singlehanded determination. Zuko is a very angry character: angry at his father for scarring and then banishing him, angry at his sister for being their father’s favorite, and most of all, angry at himself for not being good enough. Contrasted with Aang’s quest, we have Zuko’s, as his father has promised him that he can return home if he can capture the lost Avatar. At first, he doesn’t seem terribly sympathetic, but as the story moves forward we see that Zuko is lonely, hurting, and desperately wants to win his father’s approval. By the end of the first season, he has ceased to be an antagonist and is more of an anti-hero, sympathetic and compelling in his own right.

And on the other side, we have his sister Azula, who has grown up being her father’s princess, but knowing that her mother is frightened of her. Azula takes after her father; she is calculating, lacking in empathy, and manipulative, but she is also clearly a very lost, frightened person deep down. Zuko and Azula are set up as each others’ foils: Zuko slowly moves toward the side of good, Azula only becomes more and more entrenched in her father’s teachings. And yet, she has what she would deem as weaknesses. She’s unable to shake off the notion that her mother thought of her as a monster, and she’s able to command an army through fear but her best friends will ultimately turn on her. She’s probably the best female villain I’ve ever seen in anything, and she’s only fourteen. (You forget while you’re watching, but everyone in the show basically ends up being forced to become a child soldier. It’s a surprisingly deep kid’s show.)

1.
Finally, the female characters are some of the best I’ve ever seen, hands down. You want a girl who’s compassionate and empathetic, but takes no shit from people who try to tell her she’s not good enough? Katara singlehandedly takes down a waterbending master because he told her girls weren’t allowed to learn fighting techniques. You want a girl who’s tiny, tough, loud, opinionated, and also disabled? Toph Bei Fong is blind but takes down men for times her size and invents an entirely new kind of bending. You want a girl who can’t do magic, but commands an army of female warriors? Suki is the leader of the Kyoshi Warriors, and also climbed up a brick wall one time just using her hands and feet. You want a girl who’s kindhearted, devoted to her people, and not a skilled fighter but an entirely different kind of badass? Yue is only there for a few episodes of season 1, but what she does is so important that she affects what happens for the next two books. You want a girl who throws knives and is bored of everything, making an exception only for one special person? Mai is one of Azula’s friends, basically joins her because she’s bored, and ends up having one of the best moments in the whole series, in my opinion. You want a girl who’s relentlessly perky and bouncy, but who clings to that as an identity because she didn’t have one for most of her life? Ty Lee is Azula’s…gal pal, let’s say, and seems a bit of an airhead but is a brilliant fighter and wants more than anything to be special and different. And of course I already mentioned Azula. The women of Avatar (I didn’t even mention some of the adults!) are complex, interesting characters with their own arcs, stories, and motivations. After season 1 (in which Katara is the only girl, alas, but it more than makes up for it later), they make up half of the main and supporting cast and the narrative treats them like people, rather than love interests or props. This isn’t to say that the male characters aren’t written incredibly well too (shoutout to Zuko and Sokka in particular), but I feel it’s important to talk about the female characters in particular, because outside of maybe My Little Pony, I can’t think of another children’s cartoon that has such a variety of girls who get to be their own people. Hell, I can’t even think of a lot of adult shows that have that, and certainly not very many where they’re all women of color. So that’s a huge deal, to me.

Granted, the first season is a bit rough. There’s a lot of kiddie jokes, and a few episodes that are just plain awful. But overall, the show is a stellar example of what animation can be, and just really good storytelling. Anybody who hasn’t seen it is really missing out.

Music Monday :: my thoughts on Oh Man, Cover the Ground

25 May

Quoth NPR: “As Cleveland has explained it, this record is the soundtrack to ‘being inside your own head all the time in the outside world.'”  Well, okay, Shana Cleveland and the Sandcastles.  Let’s do this.

“Butter & Eggs.” Oh, here’s maybe some of that twang I’ve been jonesing for.  I also saw comparison to Thao Nguyen in the short preface.  There’s a sort of introspective melancholy to this, but it’s not overwhelming.  It’s just right.

“Holy Rollers.”  I’m also very into these long intros.  This is just this interesting twang with sprinklings of jazz piano underneath occasionally.  This sparse little story with a sense of build to it, this thing I can’t quite describe but I am here for it.  Long summer nights, driving, starlight, etcetera.

“Oh Man, Cover the Ground.”  I will probably need to read these lyrics, as she’s soft enough that I’m missing things here and there, but I like what I’m hearing.  The NPR article described this as a lullaby and I’m sort of getting that vibe from the whole album so far.  Twang is just easy to tilt that way.

“Itching Around.”  This sort of reminds me of driving around with grown-ass men picking the music when I was a kid, like, my dad or my friends’ dads, except it’s a woman singing instead of a grown-ass man, so that makes my ears happier.

“Potato Chips.”  There are no coherent thoughts to be had.  This is just very pretty and pleasant and soothing, sort of.

“Golden Days.”  “Who can say the time is right cutting across the country lines” I think it’s lines I lose it there but this is nice and vaguely eerie.  Now I’m sort of itching to go listen to Thao and Mirah, actually.  I might do that afterward.  This is nice though!  It really is.

“(Death Riff).”  Well this is a title that intrigues me!  The parenthetical in particular.  I’m wild for things like that.  Instrumentation!

“SPATM.”  And the parenthetical instrumentation kicks into this track very nicely.  This is moody and listen to that guitar though, that twangy moody guitar.  Wonderful.

“Rounding the Block.”  This one is more understated, tipping toward a thoughtful sort of place.  I completely understand that comment about introverted music, essentially.  It’s very useful for that.  I feel like this could be an album I accidentally play a lot of times because it’s just good background.

“City to City.”  This is nowhere near as moody as Mirel Wagner, but it’s just moody-twangy-voicey enough that I can pull it up over myself like a blanket and sigh happily as I settle into it.

“Sucking Stones.”  And the guitar is right enough that yes, this is exactly what I’ve been looking for these last weeks, this introspective twangy art-guitar brilliance.  Very beautiful.  The guitar is its own melody and that’s lovely.

“Quiet as Skin.”  This veers more Western than Southern in its Gothic Americana tendencies, but it’s just lovely twang overall.  It’s sort of meandering, but in a very “journey not destination” sort of intentionally intentionless way.

“Change in the Ocean.”  Blanketing once again.  Music blankets always feel very safe, even when they’re not entirely happy.  This twang is beautifully intricate.

–your fangirl heroine.

optimism

Sundry Sunday :: modern Goofus and Gallant the second.

24 May

This week’s theme is Technology!

1.
Goofus uses his phone to text in the movie theater.
Gallant turns his phone off and doesn’t look at it until the movie is over.

2.
Goofus makes insulting comments to people on YouTube.
Gallant comments on the content of the video and is always polite and respectful.

3.
Goofus puts his hate posts in the main tags for the person or character.
Gallant is careful not to tag them, or to tag them so that fans will not find the posts.

4.
Goofus jumps right to sexual text messages to girls he’s corresponding with.
Gallant engages people in texted conversation if he would like to get to know them.

5.
Goofus makes sexual jokes online like “show us your tits” and tries to play if off like a joke and the victim has no sense of humor when he gets called out on it.
Gallant never makes inappropriate comments, and if he accidentally offends someone, he apologizes immediately.

–your fangirl heroines.

ugh nazis gross

Fashion Friday :: going out triumphantly

22 May

Joan (Christina Hendricks) is the only one whose fate I was entirely satisfied with, after all, and she’s my darling girl, so it’s only right she finish this series.

It’s pink and it’s fantastic.  Maria Wiggle Dress in Pink Ponte, Pinup Couture at Pinup Girl Clothing.

Wear Anywhere Heel in Noir

Another vintage looking pair of black heels.  I choose these based on if I like them at this point.  Wear Anywhere Heel in Noir, ModCloth.

Ode to Geode Necklace

Not quite the same, but I like the vague color tie-in.  Ode to Geode Necklace, ModCloth.

Handbags - From the Round Up Bag

And… I don’t know.  It’s cute and pink.  From the Round Up Bag, ModCloth.

–your fangirl heroine.

playing hair

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 123 other followers