Saturday, 25 April 2015

Scarlett Couture

Posted by Wendy B
Friday, 17 April 2015
Friday, 10 April 2015
Tuesday, 31 March 2015
I don’t remember my mother ever reading to me (mainly because my brother—ten years my elder—took it upon himself to manage my parenting), but I do remember reading to my mother when I was around ten years old. We’d cuddle up in her bed with kids books like Maybe A Mole, but eventually, my eyes turned to the books in her closet. Alice in Wonderland came first, but soon enough, I was devouring Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With The Wind, the 733 page monster bound in blue leather—my first real grown up book.

Back then, I didn’t understand many of the adult references, the historical events, the political, and racial significance. But it didn’t matter. I was in love with Scarlett O’Hara. Then I saw the movie. And I wanted to be Scarlett O’Hara.

Wednesday, 25 March 2015
Feminism totally is too.
The word "feminism" is being thrown around a lot. Last year, several celebrities "came out" and stood up to be counted among those who would call themselves feminists. Twenty years ago. Hell. Ten years ago, I would not count myself among them. When I was younger, I thought feminists were the crazy women who burned their bras for some reason I couldn't bother to learn about. When I was a little older, I thought they were akin to the women who frequented the parenting boards on Livejournal, venomously swarming new moms who dared to admit that they didn't want to breastfeed.

In other words, I really had no clue what feminism was really about. I just took for granted that I could vote, have babies or not have babies, own property, work, etc. Ah the ignorance of youth.

Now I'm a little older, wiser. I have daughters. I have friends with daughters. I also have friends with sons. Friends who are men. Family who are boys and men. And I've come to the shocking realization that I'm a woman and a human being living in a society that has changed and continues to change and still has a ways to go when it comes to gender equality. So yes, I will call myself a feminist. Not because I want to see men brought down in order to raise women up, but because we live in a patriarchal society that needs to do a whole lot of reflecting on how it has oppressed not only women, but men as well. Because yes men have struggles in our society too. And I will stand up and help raise awareness about those issues, because to me, they stem from the same place: the gender roles that have been ingrained into our society.

There's the suggestion, that, because of the stigmas that have been attached to the word "feminism," that people should move away from it. That I should use something less divisive, like "humanist." Semantics, really. Feminism has always been about equality, like I said, through raising women up, not -- as some would have you believe or as some do believe -- by bringing men down. Not that I'm naive enough to believe their aren't extremists in the bunch. Every movement has its bad apples. Bullies, really. That's what they are. There are feminists who make the word ugly. But there are also humans who make "humanist" ugly.

I've seen many men argue that feminism is inappropriate because it ignores men's struggles. Ignores the statistics that show more men are murdered, more male soldiers die, etc etc. But if feminism is about raising women up and finding equality in our society's gender roles, then the obvious result would be less pressure on men to "Man Up" and to solve their problems through violence and manly manliness, instead of assuring men that it's okay to cry and express emotions (because it is). There would be more women on the battlefield, sharing that burden. More men teaching, staying at home with the kids, etc. We've already seen these changes happening, little by little, but there's still far to go. Why shouldn't I be standing up and speaking my mind about such things. It's the least I can do to honour the women (and men) who have fought for equality in the past so that I can vote, own property, etc.

Some men take issue with terms like "privilege" and "mansplaining" -- and with good reason, because there are those who would use those terms as insults and to bully people into silence. But the thing is, there is often truth, even in insults. Just like some jokes are very serious, even as we laugh. Just like stereotypes have grounding in truth. It's easy to get defensive. But in the right minds, what those words are asking for is empathy. A listening ear. It's hard to hear sometimes, especially when the speaker is too loud. Too in your face. Or if your biases (we all have them) are getting in the way. But when you set that all aside and just listen for a moment; hear the experiences of another, try to put yourself in their shoes first, something magical might happen, and that's called empathy. It will hopefully lead to a willingness to support the struggles of those less privileged to work towards something better for all, and I appreciate the men that, instead of crying sexism, lend their voices in support to uplift the voices of those who are ignored, punished for speaking out, or are too afraid.

I'm still learning how to be a feminist. Not a good feminist or a bad feminist, but a woman who wants to see change in our society and is willing to speak up. I'm still learning about all the ways systematic discrimination affects others and identifying my own ignorance and biases to understand how I can use my voice to help those less privileged than I. Because why shouldn't I want a society where women are equal to men? Why shouldn't I want to see a change in our system to allow that equality? So I will express my opinion on issues that I am passionate about, even if I might earn the rank of cunt, bitch, whore, or vile fempig for doing so. (Yes, I know that's #NotAllMen. If I thought that, I probably wouldn't be married to one, or have so much respect for my nephews, brothers, guy friends, etc. Please don't tell me to just ignore the trolls until they go away. Because they don't. Contrary to the belief, words do hurt. Violence hurts a whole lot more. Do not simply accuse me of sexism for identifying misogyny without first considering the foundations on which our society is built, where women were not only unable to own property, but were considered property -- in some case, "still are" is more apt.)
That doesn't mean I'm campaigning all day every day for the cause. I'm not instilling my Feminist AgendaTM on my kids through lessons and diagrams. But, I hope, I am showing my girls that men and women can do many of the same things, share many of the same roles. That progress has been made, but that there is still much to learn and do. That it's okay for boys to wear pink and play with dolls. I want to teach them about the various achievements of women throughout history in hopes of inspiring them to do and be more, and I love days like International Women's Day that bring to light and celebrate those accomplishments. I'll still watch movies, read comics, play video games where women can be interchanged with lamps, but I'm going to question the tropes and demand better. No, I will not be appeased by "strong female characters." I want characters who reflect who I am. The people I know. And I want recognition and realization that I have every right to be in this space when it comes to my preferred forms of entertainment. I will dress in short skirts and tight clothes because I enjoy my femininity, my body, my sexuality, and I'm tired of being ashamed of or shamed for that.

I do these things because I am a woman. I am proud to be a woman. And as a woman, I will fight for a society, a world, where my daughters can be proud to be women and to do and be and achieve as women, without fear.
Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Personally speaking, instead of a remake, I’d have preferred a Cinderella movie that focused on the villain, like Maleficent, which is a favourite in our household. Well, maybe not just another re-envisioning where we learn the villain’s story and realise she might not be so bad after all. Actually,  I’d rather have seen a badass version of Cinderella 3: A Twist In Time, where Lady Tremaine—played by Cate Blanchett—has an epic showdown with Helena Bonham Carter’s Fairy Godmother, steals the magic wand, and bippity boppity boos away Cinderella’s happily ever after. Or maybe even a version that calls back to the darker origins of the fairy tales Disney has been plundering all these years.

What I got was an update to Disney’s 1950s fairy tale of a downtrodden young woman who sings gaily while scrubbing the marble floors, and the knowledge that Disney has earned that much more of my money.

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Bunny has also played Moshi Monsters and Club Penguin. The latter regularly features major themed events, and, because it is now owned by Disney, that means things like awesome Marvel penguins saving their little penguin world. Now they are both playing Animal Jam from National Geographic Kids. I had originally planned to make this a review of their favourite games, but I realized that, well, the games are all the same. It turns out that, much like adult MMOs, these games have the same basic elements. While adult MMOs try really hard to be unique within an industry saturated by this type of game, MMOs for kids can get away with repeating the same concepts. The only significant difference is in what kind of cutesy characters the kids are running around with.

Monday, 9 March 2015
Friday, 27 February 2015

I don’t think I truly appreciated Dr. Spock in my youth, at least not until Star Trek: The Undiscovered Country. But he has always been a recognizable part of my life, from voicing Galvatron in the Transformers Movie, to playing William Bell in Fringe. He’ll always be Mr. Spock to me, but somewhere along the way, I discovered his photography work and realized that he was so more than just an actor on screen. Photography is one of my secret passions, though I have no talent for it myself. I love photographers who can capture the essence of a person through their images, and I find that through those images, the photographer reveals something of themselves, as well. Mr. Nimoy captured such intimacy and beauty in his work, and presented each image with an elegant simplicity, compassion, and respect.
“I’m so intrigued with the idea that the way we present ourselves to the world isn’t necessarily all of us, that there are other identities that we carry with us that sometimes slip out.” [x]

LLAP

Posted by Wendy B
Tag :
Wednesday, 25 February 2015
Taxes. Not exactly the most exciting topic, and yet, thanks to TurboTax, it has become a source of amusement for me, rather than consternation. Last year, I even tweeted taxFiction, turning my annual income tax into a sordid romance adventure involving dependents and RRSPs. There’s nothing so exhilarating as checking that “dependents” radio button and seeing your tax return sky rocket. I knew I had children for a good reason, and tax season is when I appreciate them the most.

This year, I was disappointed that TurboTax wasn’t quite as forth coming with the love and devotion. They only sent me one email offering me tax season discounts. Technically, I guess they don’t have to. Our relationship has been going on for so long that they just take for granted that I’m hopelessly smitten with their easy-to-use tax software. In fact, it just keeps getting easier and easier to use, and this year, when I pressed that final “file” button, it felt a bit anti-climactic. They now push my information straight through to the CRA for me. I don’t even have to leave the TurboTax site to wrestle with the government webpage and uploading and all that. TurboTax does it all.

But as much as I appreciate the ease of use, this is definitely one of those ominous moments that looms over me, all thanks to Panel Syndicate, the team behind The Private Eye. Julie from TurboTax cutely replied to my tweet, which is part of what makes using TurboTax fun. They encourage you to share your taxification on social media—because who doesn’t want to know about your charitable donations of 2014—and they eagerly respond.
As much as I appreciate Julie’s chipper reply, I’m pretty sure she missed the reference. The Private Eye is a comic by Brian K. Vaughan, Marcos Martin, and Muntsa Vincente. It takes place in our not so distant future (2076) when all that private and confidential information we’ve been blissfully uploading and transmitting across cyberspace suddenly becomes not so private and confidential.
"Look, once upon a time, people stored all their deepest, darkest secrets
in something called "The Cloud," remember? Well one day, the cloud burst."
People now live in a constant state of anonymity when they step outside of their houses, complete with pseudonyms and costumes. The internet is no more, but that doesn’t mean personal information is safe. This is where the Paparazzi comes in. They are now truly branded criminals for their attempts to pry into private lives and reveal what hides under the masks.

And the creative irony of it all, is that, when Vaughan presented this idea to Martin, Martin suggested that the comic only be made available online.

Since I started reading The Private Eye, my every online transaction is suspect. Not that I’ve stopped online transactioning. Companies like Amazon, Google, and Steam have their claws too deeply embedded in my soul for me to stop now (oh that one-click buy button is all kinds of evil). But I do it with a wary finger and an eye for security. With all the recent hacking scandals, this ought to be standard practice for everyone, but reports still show people using “password” as their, well, password. I suppose there’s a blissful belief that these major stories in the media are about big companies and Hollywood celebrities. No one cares about the nude photos on my cellphone. But this is a bad case of Bystander Effect where the bystander isn’t simply ignoring the problem in hopes that someone else will take care of it. They are dangerously unaware of the fact that this really is their problem too. In The Private Eye, it’s not just celebrity culture and big companies under attack when someone wants personal information. It might just be a comic, but the reality is that identity theft isn’t just a silly movie.

I don’t expect everyone to live in a state of conspiracy theory level paranoia, but awareness and understanding of just what is going on when you shop online, subscribe to this or that, or include your GPS in your photos, shouldn’t be too much to expect from anyone using the internet these days. The Private Eye may seem like an amusing joke, with its flashy colours and fancy costumes, but it hits far too close to home not to take it as the cautionary tale it is.

Taxing in the Cloud

Posted by Wendy B
Wednesday, 18 February 2015

I’m pretty sure I said something about writing in my resolution this year. Well, I know I did. But I probably said something specific about working on my personal projects. The ones that have been sitting in my head for over a decade, twiddling their poor little thumbs. Welp. It’s mid-February now – which is still quite early by resolutions standards – but I’m well into the phase of “Why am I not working on this yet?”

At least I have been writing. I adore the words that I’ve spilled for Women Write About Comics, and enjoy sharing my bibliophilia over at The BiblioSanctum. I’ve written a review for Deadshirt’s Year of Star Wars and might write some more if inspiration strikes. Last year’s big writing projects for clients are as complete as they can be, under their respective constraints, and I’ve learned a lot throughout the processes.

But other than a short fiction piece, some flash fiction, and a bit of editing work, I’m horribly stalled on my own writing projects.

Personal motivation sucks.

Part of the problem is that I have too many ideas and all of them are well into the progress stage. Some of them are half written. Some of them need to be rewritten. Excuse #1 is that I am a multi-tasker and I like to be able to jump around from idea to idea when one isn’t working out, but the lack of focus really isn’t helping. Obviously. I work best with deadlines and marching orders, but it’s so easy to roll over and look the other way when I’m the one in charge.

Problem #2 is finding a proper place and time to write. I’ve got my bedroom and I’ve designated Sundays as my don’t interrupt my I’m writing and/or reading days. My cat understands and will sit quietly with my during these moments (she even pets me. It’s very encouraging). But my family still has trouble with the concept, though it’s not like I’m going to turn away breakfast in bed and hot tea and warm hugs. There’s still all the noise outside my door, though, and that constant, intrinsic need to be mom even if my kids are old enough to take care of themselves and there is another parent in the house.

A friend told me about a famous author who would put on his hat and coat every morning, and go to work from nine to five, just like everyone else. Except, while they were all heading to the office etc., he would go straight downstairs to the basement to write. That sounds like heaven to me. Assuming his writing basement had a nice comfy seating area, a good writery soundtrack, and a healthy supply of Chinese food, snacks and boxes of wine. I would love to have an interruption free writing zone, but that takes us to problem #3: unless I’m motivated enough, I’m going to find all sorts of ways to be my own worst enemy.


None of this is special snowflake. I’ve read enough writing blogs to know I’m not unusual. And I've read enough writing blogs to know all the different ways to find your writing space and make it work for you (or you work for it). 

So I really just need to figure out how to get my head in the right place. Pick one story and focus. Make the time and place. And get writing. One word at a time.

The Write Space

Posted by Wendy B
Thursday, 12 February 2015

It all started with Teyrn Loghain Mac Tir, a brilliant military strategist, the hero of the Battle of Riverdane, trusted advisor to King Cailan, father of the queen, and loyal friend and guardian to Cailan’s father Maric. When King Maric’s ship was lost at sea, Loghain spent two years searching for him, nearly bankrupting the Ferelden coffers.  Why then would this man orchestrate the death of Maric’s heir—a boy whom Loghain had helped to raise in honour and memory of his lost friend—and throw Ferelden into civil war with a Blight looming on the horizon? As I played through BioWare’s Dragon Age: Origins, Loghain’s scenes showed me a man filled with regret. I got to speak with characters who had known and trusted him. Some of them thought him suddenly mad with ambition or fear that the nation of Orlais would once again attempt to take over Ferelden. But his history with Ferelden and with his best friend Maric implied that there was more to him. That this regicide had been a difficult decision, and it had cost him deeply. The question then of why Loghain would go to such lengths plagued me.

This was how I took my first step into the world of gaming tie-ins.

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Scoundrels brings readers back to the days just after the destruction of the first Death Star, which seems to be a trend with recent Star Wars stories, including the Empire and Rebellion series. Han is still a cocky smuggler, trying his best to ignore his feelings for that stuck up princess. He’s also still got that pesky Hutt bounty hanging over his head because he and Chewie somehow lost the reward money he earned from Leia’s rescue. When Han is offered a chance at millions of credits, he can’t pass it up.

Thursday, 5 February 2015

Once upon a time, our games editor, Al, asked if any of us would like to play and write about Japanese dating games or “otome.”

Otome are story-based romance games largely targeted at a female, heterosexual audience. The player role-plays as the ambiguous main female character whose goal is to develop a relationship with one or more of the handsome males. The focus is on romance although sex can factor in as well. On mobiles and consoles, the games are rather tame due to company regulations, but PC versions can get pretty explicit.

Otome plots differ from game to game—from fairy tale adventure fantasies to urban one night stands—but generally, all otome follow the same concept in which players determine their path through choices within the script. The endings can vary based on those choices; however, a “good ending” is the ultimate goal of the game.

What exactly is a “good end” you ask? Well that’s what we’re about to find out.

Monday, 2 February 2015

One of the most important things I have learned — specifically from playing BioWare video games — is that you should always flirt with your companions whenever the interactive dialogue presents the opportunity. That is to say, BioWare does such a great job of writing fully fleshed out companion characters, that if you take the time to chat with them, you might find that they make for great friends or even lovers. These are just  characters made out of pixels and programming, but they have feelings, dammit. And so do the players. It’s not hard for some players to find good reasons for their main characters to fall in pixelated love.

Friday, 23 January 2015

Was I expecting too much when I wished that the next on screen incarnation of Storm would be a good one? That X-Men: Age of Apocalypse director Bryan Singer would choose an actress  better suited to the rebooted role than Halle Berry? An actress who could act, and who would do her research to learn what Storm is about and thereby approach the character with pride, instead of the contempt that Berry initially offered in her phoned-in performance? Whatever her motivation, I’m glad Berry changed her tune once she came to understand how popular the X-Men actually are. But I still revelled in that blessed moment in X-Men: Days of Future Past when Berry’s Storm was finally removed from this pained existence—even if only for a brief moment.

Monday, 19 January 2015

In grade six, there were two Commodore-64’s in the classroom, and if we did all our work, then we had a chance to play one of the three games available. I used to do my work extra fast so I could score extra time. Because I really needed to pense the bunnies. Little did I know at the time, that when I ventured Below the Root with the Windham Classics game, I was paving the way to my love of roleplaying games.

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Last year, I wrote a piece where I selected Captain America over Superman as representative of what it means to be an inspiring, benevolent, super powered person. I based my decision on my feelings about the character of Superman, which tend to lean towards that of Lex Luthor. I appreciate that Superman does wonderful things for the human race, but continue to ask myself “why?”

Sunday, 11 January 2015
There are many reasons why people choose to read this kind of literature, and considering how popular the genre is, there are many people reading — and writing — this kind of literature. Period. So why are we hiding?

Sunday, 4 January 2015
When my daughters (6 and 9) saw the trailer for Annie, the first words out of their mouths were "She looks like us!"

Those words made my heart burst.

When I go to the movies, read books or comics, or watch television shows, I am acutely aware of the fact that I rarely survive apocalypses, I'm the first to die -- especially if I get a close up, it's unrealistic to have me live in the same part of town as dragons. I am a slave, a thug, a maid. I'm just a token, a sidekick, maybe even an exotic girlfriend.

I hate that this is what I see when I am meant to be entertained. I hate that it's the first thing on my mind.

But for my daughters, when I took them to see Annie, they got to see themselves in a role that any little girl could play. With no psychological baggage attached. My wish for them is to be able to see lots more movies like this where everyone has a place.

It was very important for me to take them to see this movie. Specifically for them to see it in the theatre where my wallet could speak to the fact that people will watch movies with PoC leads. Movies that aren't just about the "black experience," but are movies that everyone can empathize with and enjoy.

After all, as much as Hollywood feels it's a risk to cast PoC leads who aren't firmly established, ultimately, the only colour the big execs understand is green.

Was this a great movie? No, it wasn't fantastic, though Quvenzhané Wallis most certainly was. Technically speaking, the choreography was lacking and the sound editing was off and the characters were shallow and there was too much product placement. But my opinion doesn't matter, nor do the opinions of all the critics who have had similar thoughts. My kids came out of the theatre satisfied, singing about the sun coming out tomorrow, even though we walked out into a snow storm. And so were all the other people who came out of the theatre, young and old.


WHAT IS THIS?

This is my mindspill. Mostly about comics, books, video games, movies of the science fiction and fantasy leanings. Sometimes recipes and parenting stuff will sneak in, along with a real world rant or two.

I also write about geek culture at Women Write About Comics, and I review genre fiction at The BiblioSanctum.

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