pop culture

We Can’t Have All Show And No Tell

Show Schedule | Casino de Charlevoix | Loto-Québec

At the risk of sounding old: I remember when TV shows made sense.

I remember when the crime was committed on camera in the first scene, just without showing who-dun-it, and the director nicely found subtle ways to point out to the audience what clues the super-smart detective was finding. At the end of the episode, said detective would explain everything leading up to how he figured out who the criminal was, and the audience would either go, “I knew it!” or, “Wow, did not see that coming!”. Either way, it was satisfying.

Unfortunately, a while ago, TV went too far the other way, where the characters explained every single little detail, in painfully tedious and unrealistic dialogue, so that the audience wouldn’t be left behind. After we’d been yelling for a while that we were still perfectly capable of following along on our own, programs swung the pendulum too far the opposite direction. Now, so that they don’t tell us “too much,” we have television that’s visually stunning, but none of us knows what the hell is going on — nor do we care.

For me, this is the latest offender:

Netflix's 'The Umbrella Academy' carves new niche in superhero ...

After bingeing the first season of Umbrella Academy, I have SO MANY QUESTIONS. The big guy in the middle of this promo shot really sums up how I feel right now. Just confusion on top of bewilderment and stuffed with sides of why-should-I-give-a-damn. There’s a new season premering quite soon, but I fear for my sanity if I tune in.

The premise is that a rich eccentric inventor takes in children born under mysterious circumstances — who also have superpowers — and trains them to basically be the X-Men. On the surface, it sounds great. But, by episode 3, I had numerous questions, that were left unanswered as the season progressed.

Such as:

  • Why did Reginald Hargreeves decide these kids needed to become superheroes? No background is given on how this guy made his fortune or why he cared enough about the world is enlist random children to save it.
  • Why did the children’s biological families allow this? So Hargreeves paid them — even with unexpected births, many people don’t just hand over their baby to some weirdo stranger waving around a big check.
  • The public knew that Hargreeves was using kids to fight crime — serious crime, like bank robberies — and somehow no one ever raised the issue of ethics? Child labor laws? Something about the way these minors were treated? What the heck?!
  • Why did these kids have powers? How? Where did they come from? It’s never explored.
  • The kids are raised by Hargreeves and Grace, an android mother (yes, you read that right), and an ape butler, who walks upright and wears clothes and talks. A-hem. Doesn’t anybody have any concerns or curiosity about that? Animal cruelty, anyone?! Along with general what-in-the-world-ness?

The season 1 plot focuses mostly on what happens when these adoptive siblings join together again after years of separation. They end up trying to prevent the end of the world, but — predictably — stuff goes awry. Even with such a familiar approach, there are still plenty of ways to make it engaging; but Umbrella Academy just misses the mark.

There’s such a lack of character development, I never got invested in seeing the protagonists succeed. I actually found myself wishing the apocalypse would kick their butts, and not vice versa.

And I could not put aside my issues with the amorality. A big one was the inappropriate relationships (either on camera or implied), between pairs with an age difference of at least 30 years. Right behind that was the number of murders committed by Number Five, who’s portrayed as a 13-year-old boy. The fact the Commission is playing God and no one — except the incredibly outnumbered Hargreeves siblings — is trying to stop them. At first it’s just annoying; by the end of the season, it’s disturbing.

Even when the concept is farfetched, there still have to be some ground rules, so that the fictional world makes sense. Umbrella Academy just doesn’t.

It’s the little things, that add up to major head-scratchers. For starters, in a story set in 2019 (says one of the characters!), why are there no cell phones and computers?

How were the kids world famous, but then suddenly forgotten about? Where are their connections? Military? Police? The closest we get is Diego’s (“Number Two”) half-hearted attempt to get back together with his detective ex-girlfriend.

We aren’t given any information about why they all left home and went their separate ways for a decade. We get very few details about what they’ve been up to in those 10 years. There are so many gaps in their history. At some point, Ben (“Number Six”) died, but we’re never told how, or when. We assume they must have all gone to school somehow, but the logistics of that remain a mystery. Various “missions” are alluded to, and the details of what happened on them never divulged.

The characters’ motivations aren’t logical. Allison keeps saying she needs to leave, to get back to her estranged daughter, but…then never leaves. Number Five “came back to stop the apocalypse,” but spends much of the season only making the end of the world more likely to occur. The “bad guy” is a red herring. The Commission and their goons — obsessed with chasing down Number Five for reasons never made crystal clear — just infuriated me.

All of this combined to leave my poor brains scrambled, and my heart very sour indeed.

We can’t have all “show” and no “tell.” We don’t have telepathy, we can’t read the minds of the writers and directors. We need clues. We need explanations.

We aren’t superheroes; we’re human, and we like to be entertained. By something that doesn’t tie us up in knots. Or leave us wanting so much more.

Why is that too much to ask for?

5 Perfect Books to Enjoy Over Tea | AVT Beverages

children's fiction, pop culture, Uncategorized

Harry Potter: The Invisible Moth’s Definitive Commentary

Harry Potter Art poster prints by Silvia Miceli | Displate

Okay, nothing like striking while the iron is hot! A few days ago, I posted on all the division that’s erupted in the Harry Potter fandom as a result of recent real world events regarding its author. As I was writing that post, I realized that, despite being a fan myself, I’ve never put together a comprehensive review of the series. But after touching on this topic during the weekend, the relevant points for this post started to come together.

I loved Harry Potter. Most of the plot, characters, humor, the more serious themes, and certainly the world-building. It takes all the familiar archetypes — the special orphan/chosen one, the wise mentor, the bumbling but loyal sidekick, the smart one, the pure evil villain with a Grand Scheme — and puts them into a world we recognize. Struggling with difficult teachers and classes, hanging out with your friends, playing a sport, fighting with your siblings, worrying you don’t really know loved ones, even sneaking out to do something you’re told not to do — take away the magic and fantastical creatures, and this is an ordinary child’s life. It’s why these books will live on, for quite a while, no matter the general public opinion of the author in Real Life.

Now, I will definitely admit there are certain plot holes, character arcs that could (should?) have gone in a different direction, and other aspects that bug me. Some of them can be shrugged off and don’t really impede my enjoyment of the particular novel or series itself; others start to irk me when I go back to them.

Get yourself a comfy sofa and a snack; this is going to be a long one.

Harry potter art harry potter poster hedwig decor owl | Etsy

One: The over-expansive world development that ultimately falls flat. 

Something downright amazing about books 1-3 is the world-building. We start with an orphan who has no idea of a magical legacy, and are taken on this incredible journey where we, along with Harry, learn about a whole world that’s as fantastic as it is dangerous. To begin with, most of the focus is on Hogwarts, but soon we get into Wizarding families, like the Weasleys; hear more about the divisions within this community and what allowed Voldemort’s rise to power; and some of the wonderful or worrisome mythical beasts and beings that also populate this realm.

In book 4, due to the Quidditch World Cup and TriWizard Tournament, this universe just explodes. What was already a pretty big premise gets rather enormous.

But this is also, sadly, where the series sets itself up to trip — and tumble down the stairs, landing in a heap of tangled hair and untied shoelaces. The fourth novel is when the page count significantly increases, when we get an idea of just how intense the conspiracy is to bring Voldemort back, and when the subplots begin to nearly overtake the main one. What was once primarily the tale of an unexpected boy wizard began switching to a world on the brink of civil war. It isn’t simply an ambitious shift; it’s almost impossible to pull off without any mistakes.

Many of us were beginning to miss the simplicity of the early books. Sure enough, The Order of the Phoenix confirms that the boy wizard is now being prepared to defend not only his own survival, but that of the entire community around him. And that’s where my enjoyment starts to fade.

Not completely. But The Half-Blood Prince hardly felt to me like the rest of the series. Too many new minor characters overshadowed the regular secondarys we’d grown attached to. Harry went from wanting to be a normal kid, despite his Chosen one status, to willingly spying for Dumbledore. And the twist ending that destroyed his mentor of the past several years — and set the whole series on a vastly alternate track — disappointed me, and made me slightly nervous about what awaited in The Deathly Hallows.

Here’s one of my most despised tropes in high fantasy: The meandering, long-lasting, booooooooorrrrrrrrrrring QUEST. It has very nearly ruined the entire genre of high fantasy for me, and I avoid it like the plague.

Cue Book 7 being 75% the above trope.

Is that me you hear screaming? Why, yes, yes, it is.

Not only was it disappointing, it felt like a copout. It made me wonder if Rowling was so tired of being badgered by fans that she was going to finish the series as quickly as possible, regardless of the fitting-ness — or not — of the ending.

All that incredible world-building from before just sort of drifted into oblivion. The fates of so many characters were thrown to the winds; we had literally no idea what happened to them during those 8 or so months Harry was in the woods.

It’s lame.

Harry Potter (House Urban Watercolor – Gryffindor) MightyPrint ...         MightyPrint Harry Potter - House Urban Watercolor - Hufflepuff ... Harry Potter - Slytherin Illustrated Poster Print - Item ...    Trend Setters Harry Potter - Ravenclaw House Urban Watercolor 17" x 24

Two: Deaths I will never get over.

  • SIRIUS BLACK.
  • CEDRIC DIGGORY.
  • Albus Dumbledore.
  • Fred Weasley.
  • REMUS LUPIN.
  • HEDWIG!!!!!!!!!!!

Three: Character developments that make no sense to me.

Ron Weasley. Starting out as the bumbling but loyal sidekick, Ron progressed into a selfish, petty, jealous jerk. Harry forgave him time and time again, despite it being pretty clear by book 6 he was growing pretty tired of breaking up the constant fights between Ron and Hermione, of having to defend his friendship with Ron to other students, and wondering if Ron could be trusted. I didn’t understand why Harry wanted Ron to come on The Quest — and indeed, Ron abandoned them the minute the going got tough. Ron and Hermione as a couple I didn’t get, either; there’s no romantic tension between them on page until well into book 6, and isn’t substantial enough for us to believe they got married later on.

Severus Snape. He’s the bad guy — right? While I never thought Snape was actually evil, he wouldn’t ever be mistaken for a nice person. But in books 5 and 6, when we learn that Snape is “only a bully because he was bullied as a child”, I have to say, it feels…false. Bullying is wrong, period; how James Potter and his friends behaved towards young Severus wasn’t okay, and we should recognize they made a poor choice. As adults, Lupin and Sirius do appear to show remorse for that, though they agree they won’t ever be friends with Snape — who is a big jerk. Yes, it was commendable that after all of that, Snape did save Harry’s life on a number of occasions. Yet, his really awful behavior (and there’s a ton of it) means we shouldn’t really sympathize with Snape.

Albus Dumbledore. Not the most disappointing for me, but the most shocking. Dumbledore is the guy, who has such strong intuition into everything that he’s always 37 steps ahead of everybody else. He’s directly responsible for Harry staying alive through the course of the series. So, why, then, does Dumbledore suddenly change in book 6, from wanting to protect Harry at all costs, to making him a spy and unwitting soldier in a war that was never his to fight? It’s immoral, unethical, and makes me question sooooo much about Rowling’s motivations behind everything in The Half-Blood Prince and The Deathly Hallows.

Remus Lupin. This is my most disappointing. Lupin the practical, the stalwart, the level-headed in a crisis becomes…Lupin the whiny, the angsty, the grumpy. What?! How?! So he fell in love and had a son — doesn’t that usually make tragic cursed individuals HAPPYGrateful? And he hardly seems affected by Sirius’ death, and considering how long those two were friends, that’s just bizarre.

Four: Parts in the universe that leave me scratching my head.

Why do all the professors need to live at Hogwarts? Seriously, why aren’t they allowed to have little houses in Hogsmeade, with their own spouses and kids and pets? This makes the idea of signing a contract to teach here akin to joining a religious order where none of the participants are permitted to marry and reproduce. Odd, very, very odd.

It’s not at all realistic that everyone marries someone they went to high school with. In smaller, close-knit communities, people who have been acquainted for years through relatives or friends often do end up marrying. HOWEVER, the idea that 90% of Hogwarts alumni pair off together is just RIDICULOUS. Lily and James Potter were students together, as well as Mr. and Mrs. Weasley, the parents of most of Harry’s friends, etc., etc. And in the epilogue, we find that Harry’s generation did the same exact thing. Just…no.

SO MANY IMPORTANT CHARACTERS DYING OFF PAGE in the last book. The battle for Hogwarts takes up, like 100 pages. WHY is Harry absent for so much of it?! He doesn’t even have a chance to say goodbye to some of his dearest friends, like Lupin. WHY is his POV the only one during these incredibly busy and vitally necessary scenes?!

The last minute twist about Neville Longbottom possibly being The Chosen One. Just…WHAT?!?! And HOW did it never come up before that Harry and Neville shared a birthday, that Voldemort went after both families, that there was a prophecy?! Does this Big Reveal in The Order of the Phoenix mean EVERY TIME Harry asked someone why him, what made him so special, HE WAS LIED TO?! Deatheaters, Aurors, the Ministry of Magic, AND DUMBLEDORE knew about the prophecy. So…just…GAH.

Jim Salvati Full Moon at Hogwarts From Harry Potter Giclee On ...

It’s reasons like this that I just stop myself from thinking too hard about this world nowadays. Holding onto my joy for this series is becoming more difficult as time goes by.

Honestly, I believe that Rowling was an inexperienced writer who had a great idea, and was given a chance to run with it; then her fame went nuclear, and her editors and publisher let her do whatever she wanted. And the series suffered for it. If someone had jumped in about halfway through book 5 and insisted on a complete turnaround from what we got, I wonder if many of us would feel very differently now about Harry Potter.

Scholarly Owl - Friday, July 31, 2020 - Painting with a Twist ...

community, pop culture

The Death of A Fandom: Could It Actually Be A Good Thing?

Lunar Dragon" by Manticora - Miorro @ deviantart | Mythical ...

I debated not making this post.

I’m concerned about a lot of things when it comes to the current state of fandoms in the bookish community. I’m concerned as an author, and as a reader.

Basically, the last several weeks have led to two things. One: Everybody who’s decided they still like Harry Potter is being demonized for not wanting to give up a beloved fantasy series they have fond memories of. Two: Everyone who’s decided JK Rowling is an absolutely terrible person, and they’re done with a beloved fantasy series they have fond memories of based solely on their new opinion of the author, are bashing and bullying the folks who took Option One.

Here’s why this state of affairs bothers me a lot: While people are completely entitled to their own perspective — especially when it comes to something so subjective as literature — I don’t like to see an entire body of work, and the readers who loved/love it being treated like total garbage because of the unwise words of said work’s creator.

The weird truth about any sort of art is that it does exist in a sort of separate world from its creators. Honestly, there are many books I’ve enjoyed whose authors I don’t believe I’d meet for coffee — or, in fact, want to get anywhere near in real life. But I can set my feelings about the person aside from my feelings about the work. Maybe most folks can’t do that, I guess?

Enhanced Castle Wallpaper 4K Edition Update : Bloodstained

When it comes to the raging debate over the actual words of JK Rowling, I do think her remarks were generally offensive, but that she didn’t consider them such. Being brutally honest, I truly think she’s so arrogant as to believe she’s an expert on something she knows little about (and don’t ask me how she made that determination).

Do I feel deeply for readers who are aching at what they see as the destruction of one of their favorite series? Yes, I do. Can I also agree with those who are deciding to firmly keep the books and the author in those different realms of existence? Yeah, I can.

I loved Harry Potter. I’ve read all 7 books and seen all 8 movies. There were, of course, some I liked more than others. But although, after seeing a few interviews with Rowling, I didn’t necessarily care for her as a personality, nothing about her writing irked me enough to make a difference.

But a few years ago, as my copies of the novels were wearing out, and we’d seen each of the films at least twice, I decided to pass on getting fancy new editions, or on collecting the DVDs. It wasn’t just that I knew the story start to finish and there was nothing new to discover; I realized that the parts I didn’t care for were really starting to nag at me.

I could write an entire review on which things fell short for me on this series. (Maybe one day I will.) But for now, let’s suffice it to say that I was only satisfied with about 25% of the last book. I remain disappointed on several plot points and character arcs, and I’m allowed to be.

Wallpaper fantasy, figure, evening, waterfall, digital art ...

However, I don’t have the right to tell others they need to share my exact views of the series, and it certainly isn’t my responsibility, obligation, or even prerogative to force those same people to concur the author is a massive jerk.

Nor is it all right for me to tell those same people that if they can’t see she’s a massive jerk, they can go crawl in a hole and die.

This has been the defining aspect of many fandoms in recent years: which have the most division within. Harry Potter is high on that list — and now it’s been made even worse.

Realistically, the fandom as a whole is doomed. Thinking about it, though, I don’t believe that’s quite a bad thing.

As long as people keep buying them, the books will live on. But the intense in-fighting, the vicious online battle royales, will fade away. People who now stand against the author will continue to make their point known (as they should be able to). Those who don’t know or don’t care about the grievious offenses (and, yeah, I know that’s problematic, but also a discussion for another day) will carry on in liking the series, or not bothering either way.

Fantasy Art: Tea Party, by Yoshioka – Aethereal Engineer

Overall, though, we may actually go back to a bookish world where people simply read books and share their enjoyment of them. HP was one of the hugest phenoms in entertainment in the early 21st century, and it was the catalyst for a massive niche culture, there’s no denying it. We all sorted ourselves into our Hogwarts houses, found our patronuses, fit multiple references to HP into our own (utterly unrelated) WIPs. We knew whether we’d choose an owl, a toad, or a cat, what sort of wand we wanted, if we’d more likely fail Potions or Magical History. It was a big deal.

Some of us haven’t actively engaged in this part of it for a while, though, and we’re already not missing it. Maybe we’re missing it a little, but are okay with that. Others are grieving right now, and that’s permitted, too.

In the end, I’ll look back and still say I enjoyed Harry Potter. I’m going to keep my views on the books and the author separate. And I’ll support anyone who goes the opposite direction.

Though, from this moment in bookish time onward, I will appreciate if the fandom craziness of the past decade starts to quiet. Sincerely, I miss when we’d all just flail over our favorite characters in a popular series, and look forward to what came next. There’s so much disunity in the world right now, I’d really like to maintain a few spots of peace and happiness.

Maybe fandoms are something we can learn to do without.

How to Create a Haunting Fantasy Digital Art Photo Manipulation in ...

self-publishing, writing

Long-Overdue Update On My Writing!

Daley Downing (@invisiblemoth1) | Twitter

Does anybody happen to remember, hundreds of years ago, when I actually published books? After plunging into NaNoWriMo (and winning!) in 2016, I took an even deeper dive into self-publishing, and released my debut novel in 2017, followed by two sequels in the series, and a few unrelated short stories. The plan after that was to proceed with an idea I had for a standalone, companion novel to my fantasy series, and go forth with a contemporary (gasp!) story I really wanted to tackle.

Then, due to several factors that quickly spiraled out of my control, much of 2019 was a personal nightmare, and my publishing plans got set waaaaay back. Between all of that and all the crap hitting the rest of the world recently, I not only lost my original path, but by the time I found it again, the route looked completely different than it had. So, in spite of managing to release a second batch of short stories — including an abbreviated version of the contemporary I’d envisioned being a much bigger project — last year was rather uneventful for me as an author.

Here’s the good news: While falling and getting back up again is HARD and SUCKS, it can be done. So, I now, finally, have some actual UPDATES to share!

First: The manuscript for Fire and Wind is just about finished, apart from final edits. Then I’ll be starting on formatting — sooner rather than later — and here’s a preview of the amazing cover!

fire and wind cover

The only unfortunate thing for readers when it comes to Fire and Wind is that this isn’t a good “jumping on point” regarding my fantasy series. It’s set between Volumes 3 and 4 of The Order of the Twelve Tribes, so if you haven’t read through Volume 3, many parts of it would be confusing. But it is my homage to a character White Fang helped me develop, which was originally supposed to serve a single, distinct moving-the-plot-along purpose, and it quickly turned into needing her own backstory and tying in with the rest of the series. So, for fans of my little “suburban fantasy” world, who have been awaiting more, yes, at last it will be occurring!

Here’s what else I’ve been up to:

Over the last couple of months, I’ve started the process of re-releasing, with updated covers and formatting, my already-published short stories and Volumes 1, 2 and 3. So far, my team and I have put together all the short fiction into one collection, with a new cover and new title. I is for Invisible, M is for Moth contains all the entries from Dreamings and Muses and How To Be A Savage, available in paperback and ebook (on Amazon and Barnes and Noble). The full collection was my first successful digital upload, a result which may or may not have left me a mess of flailing puddle on the floor for a day or so.

The Invisible Moth – The Order of the Twelve Tribes Headquarters

Ahem.

Anyway, the separate collections are still available on Barnes and Noble as well, and the goal is to have ebook editions of the originals uploaded (finally), too. For anyone who already has the originals, the stories in I is… have not had any changes made to content. The stories remain the same.

Dreamings and Muses: The Invisible Moth Short Story Collection by ...    How To Be A Savage And Other Tales by Daley Downing, White Fang ...

Other announcements:

The new covers and formatting for Volumes 1, 2, and 3! Again, none of the manuscripts have been changed, in terms of story, so the plot and characters you read back in 2017-18 are the same as the first editions. The major difference is in the aesthetics — it cleans up some niggling little things about the text that bothered me (basically, I wanted it to look “fancier” and “more professional”), and the cover designer felt that way about the art. Here is the new look for Volume 1:

Blog Tour Sign Up: Masters and Beginners by Daley Downing (July 27 ...

For everyone who already owns the original editions of Masters and Beginners, Rulers and Mages, and Healers and Warriors, as I already mentioned, no sneaky alterations to the tales themselves have happened, and these books remain canon. There will be digital versions on sale of all of these in the very near future (in the case of Volume 1, there already is!). For those of you who repeatedly asked about ebooks, thank you so much for your patience! It turns out technology and I have a love-hate relationship, and some aspects of indie authoring proved more difficult than I anticipated, hence the delay.

Masters and Beginners: The Order of the Twelve Tribes: Volume 1 by ...    Rulers and Mages: Volume 2 of The Order of the Twelve Tribes by ...    Healers and Warriors: (Volume 3 of The Order of the Twelve Tribes ...

These are the major things going on right now, and I’m happy to be able to share them! To all of you who have had my back all this time, no matter the constant shakeups in what should have been a straightforward publishing schedule, to all of you who remain excited to see what I put out next, whenever it arrives, THANK YOU. Having such a network has meant soooo much in the past 16 months — well, since the very beginning — and definitely helps make this life worth it, when the struggle feels too big.

Toby concurs.

My Writing Influences – The Invisible Moth

 

books, movies

Here’s My Two Cents

Beautiful Black Cat with Gold Eyes Portrait Journal: 150 Page ...

I have a million things I could say about the current (rightful) unrest happening in our country and being reflected around the world. But I really don’t think I’m the right person to be saying it, and others have said it all much better, and more appropriately. But this is what I can do, and will do — here are some under-recommended recommendations for reading, and viewing, to help inform, and inspire, not just now, but all the time.

With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo. A good book for teens ...

With the Fire On High: 

Full disclosure — this wasn’t completely my cup of tea, purely because I am not the biggest reader of contemporary fiction. But this is a great story about the struggles of a teenage mother, and her desire to keep alive her dream of cooking professionally. With the Fire on High doesn’t shy away from addressing the stigma of trying to finish high school while raising a small child — and also provides hope for the future, even in this situation. This is absolutely an important novel, and I think it should be widely read.

Amazon.com: On The Come Up (9780062498564): Thomas, Angie: Books

On The Come Up:

Everybody’s still talking about Angie Thomas’ debut novel, The Hate U Give, but her fantastic second release is sadly out of focus. For someone who really didn’t care for the writing of the former, I loved the style of the latter. The text and the message, the story and the real-life topic, are easily woven together here, and On The Come Up feels so natural and from the heart. If this isn’t already on your TBR, it needs to be.

Misty Copeland "Life In Motion - An Unlikely Ballerina ...

Life In Motion (An Unlikely Ballerina): 

Misty Copeland is one of the few people of color rocking the American ballet scene, and I want everyone who loves the fine arts to know who she is. Her autobiography delves into the details of her personal challenges, as a black woman in a traditionally white field, and shows how she made her mark there. In spite of her groundbreaking status, Misty’s voice is utterly unpretentious and heartfelt, regardless of the topic or discussion of the chapter. By the way, you don’t have to be an expert on ballet to enjoy her story.

Moana review: after 80 years of experiments, Disney has made the ...

Disney’s Moana:

Put aside the Hawaiian connection for a minute, and revel in this tale of a young woman of color going out, on her own, to save the world she knows, and discover what else might be out there. Moana is a beautiful twist on the coming-of-age narrative, and the primary focus is on not giving up, no matter the odds.

Raising Dion's flaws are what also makes it appealing - PRIMETIMER

Raising Dion (Netflix): 

I’ve been discreetly trying to find ways to encourage diversity in Muffin’s entertainment consumption, and this one he stumbled on before I did. Raising Dion is a wonderful depiction of a mother’s love; of explaining to children there is good and evil in the world, pain and joy, at a level they can understand and relate to. It’s also a show that subtly touches on the fact there simply aren’t many POC superheroes. For anyone with a Netflix account, do give this one a watch.

Top 10 Hair-Raising Reasons You Need a Black Cat - The Trupanion Blog

 

 

 

reading

The Wrong Kind of Book Hangover

Open Books Stock Photos And Images - 123RF

I’m sorry, everyone, but I need to go on a full-blown, let-down-bookdragon whinge.

The other night, I was reading the last book in a series I recently realized I’d never finished. Quarantine meant I couldn’t just put in a hold request at the library, so I found a coupon for Barnes & Noble and placed an order. As I re-read the first, and second, and third books, along with details coming back to me, I also began to get an inkling of where the plot was going and how it might end. Usually this is the most exciting part, as any bookdragon will tell you. Anticipating that moment your ship, er, ships. Figuring out before the characters do how they’re going to defeat the bad guy. When you guess who the last-minute rescuer is going to be.

All those lovely tickles of delight can oh so quickly flip to uncomfortable wriggles of disdain when it hits you that the twist will be something unfitting.

Yup, it was one of those.

Not wanting to believe it could be true, I kept reading.

I should’ve saved myself the heartache.

And now I just feel like: What was the point? The author wrote this charming, witty, enjoyable novel, that then had a slightly less witty, still fun, still enjoyable sequel, and then the third indicated a bigger, deeper, plot…and then before the fourth had even reached its conclusion, the whole thing was falling apart. WHY?!

Black Books Decoration, Books, Book, Books Decoration PNG ...

I legit don’t understand how this happens. It’s like the authors stop caring about this world they’ve created, and just let it implode. I can understand knowing when something’s done, and being ready to move on to a new project. But why throw in the towel at the critical juncture? Isn’t it all the more vital to craft a series ending that suits everything that came before?

As a reader, I just find it infuriating. I mean, I’ve just invested literal dollars and time and emotions into reading four books that I expected to provide me with a nice, relaxing escape from lockdown. Now it feels like the halfway mark in that fourth book was just sitting there, rubbing its devious hands together and cackling, waiting to destroy me. In a very bad way.

I very much have the wrong kind of book hangover. I got gypped. And now I desperately want to read something that gets me out of the pit, that puts me back on track with beloved characters and feels I can trust not to stab me in the back. I foresee a re-reading spree coming on.

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But then I’ll be stuck with the dilemma that immediately follows a re-reading spree: What new thing do I attempt next? Do I even have the fortitude for anything new after all the previous anguish and loss?

No, I’m not being overdramatic!

Thoughts, anyone? How do you usually get over bookish disappointments?

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entertainment, Science fiction

Stranger Things: The Definitive Whinge

Stranger Things | Stranger Things Wiki | Fandom

Time for another edition of: I finally got to immerse myself in this thing I’ve heard so much about, and discovered I didn’t love it as much as everyone else does!

Necessary notes: I won’t be holding back on any spoilers, so if you’re behind on the series, feel free to skip parts of this post. And, if I trash an aspect you really enjoyed, I am sorry. Please remember that these are just my opinions, based on my taste, and my perspectives.

I didn’t hate this show. Far from it. I was honestly surprised at the overall tone being darker and creepier than I’d expected — even from a program entitled Stranger Things. But, despite my initial misgivings, while I did get sucked in, and don’t feel watching was a waste of time or anything even close, there are a number of plot points, lapses in writing sense, and various dead ends that have me scratching my head.

Strap yourselves in — this is going to be a long one.

Stranger Things season 4 to feature four new characters

Let’s begin, as they say, at the beginning: Season 1. From the very first episode, I was a little twitchy — the obvious 1980s setting might end up turning cheesy real fast; I don’t play D&D, so while I appreciated the references, they went right over my head; and the way whatever escaped from the lab made poor Will Byers just disappear scared the daylights out of me.

You have to remember, I went into this adventure with little to no knowledge of the premise or events. I’d heard of the show — meaning, I knew it existed — but that was it. I’d never seen any ads, trailers, or clips. I found myself utterly unprepared for how disturbing, on a primal level, the atmosphere of season 1 would be.

On the surface, it’s about amoral bastards conducting heinous experiments in a secret lab; it’s about a monster from another dimension running amok; it’s about childhood friendships and sibling dynamics and small town peace being disturbed by the weirdness.

But underneath, this is a very frightening portrayal of our deepest fears — of children going missing, of the classified government lab conspiracy being true, of the unthinkable monsters being real.

And those factors were what hit me so strongly. I ached for Joyce Byers as she continued the search for Will; ached for Eleven, an innocent child raised to be a super-soldier; ached for no one believing the boys who knew there was a chance their friend was still alive.

I can concretely say I appreciated the conspiracy theory turning out to be right — because it validated all of the boys’ and Nancy’s misgivings, Joyce’s perserverance, and pushed Hopper out of his own bad choices. It made heroes out of ordinary people. It made the audience believe in miracles, made us root for characters who started out as real jerks (*cough* Steve Harrington), and cheer on the kids who unwisely rushed into danger.

Now, here’s where I start getting to the parts that rankled me.

It has to be said: Hawkins is evidently a town of morons. Yes, the lab was meant to be secret, so I completely get the residents wouldn’t realize it was conducting literally mindbending, possibly world-ending experiments. But, in so many other ways, I simply don’t comprehend how no one would have known something odd was going on.

For example, when Eleven first escapes from the lab, and the scientists murder the diner owner, Hopper is told by the victim’s friends there’s no way it could’ve been suicide — and, oh, yeah, there was a strange kid on the premises right before his death. This reaction sounds very plausible. So is Nancy insisting her best friend wouldn’t have run away — because she knew her best friend.

But, sadly, as the season continues, the townspeople lose their credibility. Barb’s parents seem utterly unconcerned about their daughter not being home in…a while. Mike and Nancy’s parents have ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA Eleven is hiding in the basement for like a week straight. Lucas’ and Dustin’s families don’t even exist on screen at this point. Joyce apparently has no relatives, co-workers, or adult friends joining her in the search for Will (which is highly unlikely in and of itself).

By the time we reach the season finale, I was rather confused, and annoyed. Why would Mike’s dad take for granted the words of the scientists who show up out of nowhere and threaten his children? How does half the middle school get destroyed by the Demogorgon and no one notice? Don’t the Harringtons ever care that Steve comes home with a bruised and bloodied face?

And there’s the not-so-small matter of Eleven having to kill all the scientists and soldiers who came after the kids the night the Demogorgon broke through the school wall. She’s just a kid, and regardless of the fact it was self-defense, it should be seen as gruesome and horrific for anyone to experience. And it’s not the same as killing the monster, because it’s a monster, who won’t stop if you beg or blackmail or send for the military. But killing people — even terrible people who should be punished for their crimes — affects someone.

How does the poor kid go on from all of that? The writers never really got to this.

Stranger Things 4 would 'feel very different,' Duffer Brothers say ...

Moving on to season 2: At first, all seems well — Will is trying to get back to a normal life; Nancy and Steve are more mature; even before we find out Hopper’s new role with Eleven, we can tell he’s changed, for the better. But, of course, there’s a new monster waiting behind the curtain, and when it strikes, it won’t be pretty.

None of that really bothers me — I mean, without conflict, it isn’t exciting, as a viewer. And there was that foreshadowing at the end of season 1, that wherever the Demogorgon came from isn’t finished with Will and Hawkins yet.

There are also plenty of hints that the loose ends from the first season have not gone completely unnoticed: The independent journalist, Murray, pressing Hopper for the real details on “some Russian girl” wandering around town (and flipping vans and breaking arms with her mind). Barb’s parents finally admitting to Nancy and Steve that they’re hiring a private investigator to find out what happened to their daughter. The new, legit scientists at the lab trying to figure out how to contain the spread of the tear into the Demogorgon’s dimension.

I liked all of this. I think season 2 was my favorite.

Except for…Max. And…Billy. And that one totally pointless episode with Eleven’s “sister”.

And there’s…Bob. It was pretty clear from the get-go what would happen to him. Poor Bob.

In season 2, we finally get to meet Lucas’ and Dustin’s families, but, unfortunately, that’s more disappointment on my end. Dustin’s mother and Lucas’ parents are a perfect example of how to be clueless. This is how you get kids running off to the junkyard, at night, attempting to blow up Demodogs.

Here’s my biggest problem with this show: WHY ARE ALL THE PARENTS SO STUPID. With the exceptions of Joyce and Hopper, NONE of the mothers and fathers seem to give a flying damn where their kids are, at any given time of day or night, what they’re doing, who they’re with. How does it never occur to them that something’s up? Mrs. Wheeler had half a brain in season 1, but in season 2, that kind of fades away, and by season 3, she’s an awful excuse for a guardian.

Joyce Byers stands out as the singular, shining example of a parent willing to do anything to protect her kids, and it’s so refreshing. When Hopper more or less adopts Eleven, he gives being a dad again his best shot, and although he makes mistakes along the way, at least he TRIES. Watching Hopper and Eleven grow together, in their new roles, warmed my heart.

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Season 3 was, well, pretty lackluster. Personally, I wasn’t very invested by this point (due to the previous failings I’ve already explained), but I watched it this past week because, well, I was curious.

Here’s my simple, straightforward thought on the plot: It’s believable. Yes, the Russians-opening-the-Gate premise works; and — despite my personal dislike of her — I can see Max becoming more an integral part of the group, her and Eleven bonding, and Mike and Eleven experiencing relationship growing pains.

I’ve heard a lot of complaints about the third season. In some ways, I don’t completely disagree. Where I’m coming from, though, is this: It’s only a hot mess when you consider it’s basically teenagers becoming superspies. That’s where it all falls apart. If it was adults trying to uncover the Russian nuclear conspiracy and whether the Mind Flayer was back, it would be much more plausible. It would resonate a lot more with the audience that somebody at the Hawkins Post — not Nancy, as an intern — came across something bizarre happening to rats; that a member of the police department started looking into a corrupt Mayor; that a store owner at the mall noticed odd behavior among some colleagues.

Placing teenagers — and Lucas’ tween sister — in brutally obvious danger (such as facing down actual Soviet military) is irresponsible on the part of the showrunners. Irresponsible socially, and creatively.

I cheered when Joyce and Hopper finally arrived back in Hawkins for the season finale, and did their best to get the kids out of the mall, and save them — even though it meant putting themselves at risk. That’s what real grownups do when the Gate is about to open and destroy the entire town.

I’m on the fence about the confirmation there will be a fourth season. I could’ve handled the end of the whole series being Joyce selling the house and hoping for a fresh start; it makes sense for the character and the plot. Joyce adopting Eleven after Hopper; Eleven not having her powers now and finally getting a chance to be a normal kid; Will and Jonathan getting a chance to step away from constant reminders of the trauma — yeah, it’s decent.

But it still leaves a lot of stuff unaddressed — and at this point, maybe attempting to get back there wouldn’t work.

My biggest sticking points:

Doesn’t Eleven have PTSD? Shouldn’t she go to therapy or something for having been raised as a lab rat/supersoldier? Won’t this come back to haunt her one day? Wouldn’t she start having nightmares, or acting aggressively, or…something?

Would the boys’ families ever get a clue, about, well…anything? That includes Max’s mom and stepdad — I mean, since Billy died pretty horribly?

What happened to the people who became part of the Mind Flayer’s army and…”melted”? Didn’t anybody care about that part of it?? Even the main characters seemed to have forgotten about it by July 5th — when it was a major traumatic event.

Even with the teasers at the end of the last episode, with the news report on “the small town that went to hell,” and that awful, heavy-handed foreshadowing to Russia, I’m not sure it’d be worth it to watch.

All in all, it seems that the title Stranger Things is more than appropriate.

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Encouragement

What Good Can Come of a Crisis?

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This is something I’ve been considering a lot lately — what happens when the crisis is over, when new lessons are learned, when “how it was before” seems too insurmountable or too impractical to return to.

Although the current crisis we’re in feels like it has lasted forever, the fact is, one day, it will be done, or at least mostly finished. We will move forward. Yes, life will again be different (because, let’s face it, we’re in a new routine at the moment). But it doesn’t mean different has to be bad.

The part many people miss is that, while we’re in the present upheaval, the seeds of tomorrow are being sown.

While we maintain extreme measures to keep each other safe — and begin to wonder how much is too much, and fear what isn’t be enough — the building blocks of the new world are taking shape.

As we determine the best way to safely gather in buildings and public spaces that are so familiar to us, yet may never feel “the same as before,” to rejoin events and routines that have not noticed our absence during the pause, maybe we could find what was missing from them previously.

For years, as an advocate for education reform, I’ve been saying that school days are too long, too packed with unnecessary material, too frustrating for students and too taxing for teachers. Now that we’re required to redesign the “typical” school day, it’s looking like smaller classes, shorter days, longer lunches and recesses, less homework, more learning through discussion will become the focus for many districts. This is a good thing, as it will eventually lead to a reduction in childhood stress and anxiety, in parents feeling they must encourage their kids to perform at an unattainable level; and one day we may reach a feeling of school being, if not somewhat enjoyable, at least tolerable, and not such a chore.

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Megachurches being temporarily closed is actually a blessing, too. People attending worship services via websites or in parking lots puts the focus back on God, not the showy, flashy kind of services too many churches are characterized by in recent years. We are in turmoil socially and economically, so we reach out to divinity for help, in the purest sense of the word. Our concern for the ill and the poor have led those of us who can to put forth money and supplies and effort — that we may not have when times were prosperous, and busy and stressful. Over two thousand years ago, Jesus told us to love our neighbors — and it looks like now, we are.

When we no longer have to stand six feet apart while praising God, I really, really hope we won’t forget that.

From a natural introvert’s point of view, I have always been concerned about crowds — about whether thousands of people in one space was safe, not just in terms of terrorism or crime, but also in terms of health. I’m intrinsically wary of germs being nonchalantly passed around, and now it appears the medical community finally has to admit to this. New restrictions on how many people can be in one place at one time, not just for the immediate future but possibly months to come, only make sense to somebody who used to watch the stadium shots at the Superbowl with horror, or recoil from the very suggestion of attending a music festival or state fair.

Does this mean we’ll never again congregate for events that meant so much to us? Of course not. It just means that we’ll get back to what truly matters about each form of celebration. Weddings will realistically be limited to the 50 or so people the bride and groom really want at their special day. Championship games will mean lots of business for sports bars and restaurant takeout — and an excuse for families and friends to join together, at home. Parades may only be watched from people’s front windows and front yards.

I can’t lie, none of this sounds bad to me.

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When businesses reopen, maybe they’ll start closing for the day earlier — something many of them could, putting less pressure on employees who will happily go home to their families a couple of hours sooner. Fathers — and mothers — who have been slaving away in offices and missing a lot of their children’s milestones may (successfully, I bet) bargain for the occasional day, or week, of working at home.

Saving for college may become drastically less important, as huge universities release they can’t sustain the pace they’d been forcing their students to race. Internships and pre-job training will gain in popularity as more high schoolers are given the freedom to say, “I don’t want to go to college.” Parents will redirect the concentration of these teen, and even tween, years to be on the single extracurricular their kids enjoy best, or have a passion for. (They’re probably realizing right now how much gas they were burning every season driving to multiple activities.)

Movies and TV shows may find it necessary to their survival to come up with happy endings, original plots, un-tropey characters, as people will probably lose their tolerance for shallow “reality” programs, grimdark dramas, and meaningless echo chambers. We’ll want to read something that isn’t a thinly-veiled dystopian commentary on outbreak control. Entertainment like board and card games, jigsaw puzzles, and simply playing outside — already making a comeback — will start to seem really appealing.

The world will become hungry for a sense of normalcy — but we are also in a unique position of putting in our say for what normal should be. Being told to slow down and temporarily put aside our regular ways has resulted in many interesting thoughts from people affected by a disaster we’d wish away in a heartbeat.

Yes, life, the world, won’t seem recognizable at first. But, in some ways, could that be preferred?

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self-publishing

Introducing “I is for Invisible, M is for Moth”!

I is for Invisible, M is for Moth

Good afternoon, everyone! So, after quite a while of not having a new release announcement to make, today I’m here to share the following:

It’s called “I is for Invisible, M is for Moth,” and while it’s not completely new, it is a fresh collection of all my short stories, and it also — for the first time ever when it comes to my work — has ebook versions available for Kindle and Nook! Paperbacks are on sale as well.

Here’s a link: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/i-is-for-invisible-m-is-for-moth-kyle-shultz/1136844306?ean=2940163066223.

And here’s a link:

 

I am very excited to finally be able to offer digital versions, and to expand my platform. And to announce that there is more coming! I’m working on updated editions of all of my existing titles, and as soon as each one becomes a solid thing, I’ll fill you in!

If I could add a couple of requests (hey, of course I can, it’s my blog): First, while I know that Amazon is quite popular, if you don’t have a Kindle, or if you (like me) simply don’t do the ebook thing, please give ordering from Barnes and Noble equal consideration. Physical bookstores are a somewhat endangered species that we need to preserve, and I am proud to use them as an indie author, and as a reader.

The other request: If you have read and enjoyed anything I’ve written, please do consider leaving a review on Barnes and Noble, Amazon, or Goodreads. Reviews can really help an indie author’s exposure, and positive word of mouth is great marketing for us!

Even in the middle of very unusual, and stressful, circumstances, I maintain that art matters, and I’m still pretty tickled for even a very low-key book launch. Take care of yourselves, moths.

 

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https://www.amazon.com/s?k=i+is+for+invisible%2C+m+is+for+moth&i=stripbooks&ref=nb_sb_noss

Autism, Mental Health

An Autist’s Guide to Surviving a Pandemic

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Wow, what a title. Yes, I am going there. I debated doing so for a while.

And then I had to decide: Should I make this post humorous? Totally serious? A combination of my overstimulated angst and pithy sarcasm? All of the above?

I could also say, “Just kidding. The title is a misnomer. There is no surviving. It’s the apocalypse. Haven’t we all figured this out yet?” But then I would legit feel bad for the people who wouldn’t realize I was being snarky with that one.

So, I think I’ll just get to what’s been on my mind lately.

The biggest problem for me during this virus-crisis and containment-craziness is the sudden loss of something I didn’t know I expected to be there. Despite not really minding the social distancing — because, no joke, being six feet apart from people I don’t know, not shaking hands, and curbside pickup literally sounds amazing — I didn’t realize until now how much I relied on a world whose rhythms I find too taxing. At least I knew what life would generally be like — work, school, shopping, social gatherings. There were set rules, rules I had spent years learning and making second nature. Now all of that is on hold.

Will those rules still be there when the restrictions are scaled back? What if new rules are created instead? Either I have to re-learn, or learn anew. And how do I feel about that? I DON’T KNOW HOW I FEEL ABOUT THAT! All of the extra emotional processing I’m being asked to do to prepare for an uncertain future simply results in: AAAAAAHHHHH!!! I can handle not knowing everything, but even an outline seems to be impossible, and that just creates an immense amount of stress.

So, how am I surviving?

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Not very well, honestly.

Children are around ALL THE TIME. People WANT THINGS. There is NOTHING to do, and somehow I am still SO BUSY. Chores and errands have taken on new dimensions, due to sanitation guidelines, and while I can handle those (and understand them), I am also surrounded by complications and burdens as a result. Schools being closed mean that Muffin is struggling to maintain skills he isn’t one bit inclined to practice without the structured classroom environment he’s familiar with. Me not having an outside job to go to means I would really like to get some writing and editing done, but with EVERYONE AROUND, concentration is an endangered species.

(For example, at this very moment, I’m fighting with Muffin about him letting me finish this post before he loads up his Minecraft world to check on his wolves. Typing the words in my head while shouting different words in his direction is ridiculously hard.)

The pressure is massive. I need space, and quiet, to be able to recharge, and feel more like myself again. But I am being pulled in several directions at once — either to be a teacher, or a parent on overdrive, or a person not spreading a sickness I haven’t even been exposed to, or a displaced library aide trying to have half a chance to focus on some online training. We are all getting on each other’s nerves, when nerves are already heightened due to the atmosphere outside our house being insecure and frightening.

None of this is conducive to my well-being.

Okay, let’s give this another go, then: How can I combat it?

I Made This Dubai Abstract Painting To Combat My Anxiety

I can still steal enough moments to read at least somewhat, and at least write a little. I can still cuddle the cat, and occasionally watch a video with White Fang, or a movie I’ve been wanting to see. At first, I cooked more than I had in weeks. I’ve definitely been conscious about more vegetables, less caffeine, and less sweets. In some ways, the change in routine has shown me just how exhausted I was after working two part-time jobs for six months. Getting to sleep in every single day has been a luxury (that, sadly, I’ll pay for later).

But I’m also trying not to concentrate on the negatives right now. One day, things will be back to, not normal, but a semblence of what we expect, and I know I’ll greet it with mixed feelings. If people decide shaking hands isn’t cool anymore, I’ll actually be glad. If not needing to go into crowded stores to get your supplies or groceries becomes more common, I think I’ll take advantage of that. If the kids go back to schools with less students per square foot, I imagine mine would be totally okay with that. If curriculums adjust to fewer non-academic requirements, especially for special ed students, that wouldn’t be any skin off their noses, or mine.

When schools are open again, I will relish the temporary quiet. I’ve already looked into virtual lessons for dance and creative writing, and that might be challenging at first, but I want to give it a shot, so I can still advance that part of my career despite the new environment and delivery system.

This current situation won’t last forever; partly because nothing does; and partly due to necessity, of society, and of the economy and many other aspects. I know that. I do sometimes focus on that. In the meantime, I want to put my best foot forward at adapting to hardly-ideal circumstances; partly out of lack of choice; partly because I have to find ways to cope.

So, the short answer is: Still find ways to carve out a little space and time for yourself. Indulge in hobbies that you enjoyed before the start of the crisis. Communicate your limits to your family (and make them abide wherever possible). Ignore the news occasionally.

And invest in a bit of alcohol. Or chocolate, whatever’s your thing.

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