Reading is FUNdamental

It might be a bit of an understatement, but I love to read. It’s one of my favorite activities. On average, I read two or three books a week. Sometimes I do it to keep the brain firing but mostly it’s just flat-out fun. To me, there’s really nothing better than curling up with a book that takes me to faraway places with interesting characters, especially after a hard day at work.

One of my favorite genres is horror. I know, I know. Very relaxing, Wendy. I like the modern classics. Stephen King and H.P. Lovecraft are a couple of my favorite scribes, but I’ll give just about any horror author a decent shot at winning me over. Mysteries—both hardcore authors like Alex Kava or whimsical writers like McCall Smith—can often be found on my nightstand. Agatha Christie is a true favorite. Then there’s science fiction, another favorite. Old, new, it doesn’t matter. I read it all. Even genre-bending authors like Kay Hooper who intertwines mystery-thrillers with a psychic/supernatural twist can be really fun. As hard as it might be to reconcile this next one given what you know about me, I do enjoy Jane Austen as well.  And yes, I’m also a comic book nerd. I know. Big surprise there, I know.

Even though I am a legit, full-grown adult I have not escaped the blast radius of the cataclysmic Young Adult boom either. Harry Potter?  Yep, I’ve read them too.  Look down on them if you must, but I don’t believe that everything you read has to be on par with Dickens. I’d heard that some parents kept their kids from reading these delightful books because they thought it celebrated witchcraft and their kids would turn into Satan-lovers or something ridiculous like that.  That was a minority of parents and I’m thankful for that because that book series single-handedly got an entire generation absolutely bonkers on reading again. It was great. The books couldn’t come out fast enough and the kids were thrilled to be READING!  Imagine that!? READING of all things!  And parents were trying to squash that. I just don’t understand some people.

At a time when the fear that iPhones and tablets and PSPs and social media were going to rot the brains of our youth, the Harry Potter collection got them reinvigorated on flipping through paper pages. They were reading. Not posting or updating or following or pinning. And I totally get why. I freakin’ loved those books. And they were not all easy reads as one might expect. J.K. Rowling did not hold back on the drama, the emotions, or the suspense. These novels were super exciting in spite of, or maybe because of, the emotional roller-coaster the author put us devoted readers on, and worthy of all the accolades they received.

A few people I know pointed out, as if I didn’t know, that—gasp—those are kids’ books. Their eyebrows would arch as they not so silently judged my reading selections. This air of pretentiousness is starting to pervade our literature choices and I just want to say, let’s not get too snobby, people.

Take book clubs for example. If you’ve ever joined a book group, you know that they usually don’t read “fun” books. No light romances or whimsical mysteries or horror novels for them. Heaven forbid they admit that they like a fun story more than some bloated philosophical 3,000 page masterpiece that takes forever to get through.

No disrespect to Tolstoy of Dostoevsky or Nobokov, but I don’t quite get why a club would choose a book where it’s hard to really understand the “point” behind them even after you’ve read them twice or even three times (but you say you do just so you don’t look stupid in book club)! Yeah, yeah, yeah, they’re classics. They deserve their place in the annals of great literature, but I’m just going to say it: No one really enjoys these books. The problem is that most people in book clubs only say they do so their peers won’t look down on them or think they’re “reading challenged.”

That last paragraph was not just all speculation. I belonged to a book club back in the day. It was mind-numbingly boring. I gave it a good college try though hoping it would broaden my horizons but I only lasted a couple of books. The material they chose was sooo stale. To my credit, or discredit – however you want to view it – I could read the material…easily…I just didn’t want to.  I know, I know, that sounds like something a toddler would say, but oh well. Why read something you’re not going to enjoy? Before bowing out I did notice that no one else in the club seemed to relish the book list either. Yet no one spoke up and said, “Can we please just pick out something fun to read?”

I think it’s high time we remove the snobbishness. I say, if you’re reading, that’s great! It doesn’t matter what you’re reading just so as long as you’re enjoying it because it’s supposed to be a truly relaxing hobby. So, please, read anything. Read comic books or Stephen King or J.K. Rowling or Danielle Steele. Just have fun doing it.

Reading builds the mind and offers an escape from everyday life. While it’s good to learn and improve yourself by stretching your comfort zone, there’s no reason why it always has to be overly challenging or arduous. You should never sulk or heavy sigh when you think about the book you’re about to crack open. Read a book that’s fun sometimes instead of always choosing material that hurts your brain. And don’t let others bring you down for what you read.  Ever.

Remember: Reading should be FUNdamental!

girl reading

No-One Likes a Tease

As an adult I like to think that I’ve gotten a good grasp on handling expectations. I can sleep the night before Christmas just fine. I can await both my birthday and Easter (ahhh the candy!) without getting too out of breath.

But with the advent of all these new avenues in social media and the massive marketing efforts that are constantly trying to trump each other, I’m finding it harder and harder to keep a level head about waiting for the things I want when they’re a certain amount of time away.

Take the upcoming Deadpool movie as a perfect example. I use the word “upcoming” with a grain of salt and that’s exactly the point. I love Deadpool. Plain and simple. He’s a misunderstood anti-hero who’s got a very rich, complex backstory, all things that I love in a character. He’s also super snarky and routinely talks smack to the audience.

The problem is that the movie isn’t coming out until 2016 and there’s already teases being put out there on the interwebs. First there was test footage leaked which whetted all of our appetites. Then Ryan Reynolds, who is playing the titular character, posted a picture of the chair he sits in on set – the word “Deadpool” splashed across the back in flecks of gore (a really cool touch!). Of course the director had to tweet out a picture of a costume test that showed what his armor might look like.  Now there’s the below photo that’s just to die for – showing Deadpool in all his glory posing for the camera in the “official suit.”

If the movie was three months away I’d be fine. Four months even. That’s what I feel is an appropriate amount of time to get people psyched up. But a year? That’s just mean.

And that’s not even the worst of it. A few months ago Zack Snyder, the director of the next Batman v Superman movie, teased a picture of the new Batmobile and Batsuit on his Twitter account. That movie isn’t coming out until May 2016. He’s already showing us things we really want to see – a year and a half before they’re going to release it.

Imagine if you were a kid and in July your parents come into your bedroom with a big box wrapped in glossy paper adorned with Santa’s face and elves with a big green bow on top. They tell you it’s all yours…in December, then put it away. How cruel would that be?

The Ant-Man movie released an “ant-sized” trailer months ago. What exactly does that mean? Exactly what it sounds like. They released a tease of the movie that, when viewed on your computer, was the actual size of an ant so it was impossible to make out any actual details. Again, mean!

How much more ridiculous is this going to get? Hell, we already know the exact day that the Avengers storyline is going to be done. Don’t worry about getting a ticket yet, you’ve got plenty of time. It’s in 2019.

Then you have teasers of teasers. As if the teaser trailer itself wasn’t bad enough, now movie studios are releasing 30 second teasers of the teaser of the trailer of the movie. Just rocking the boat well before the storm is even close to hitting.

Not to get dramatic, but it just rips me apart. There’s something to that old saying “Ignorance is bliss.” I like knowing something I want is coming, but don’t make it torturous by dangling the carrot so early that I’m not even sure I’m going to have good eyesight anymore when it finally does come out.

 

"Eat your heart out Burt Reynolds.   Photo Credit: Deadpool Movie  (click photo to go to link)

“Eat your heart out Burt Reynolds.”
Photo Credit: Deadpool Movie
(click photo to go to link)

 

Super Friends

So that thing called the Super Bowl happened over the weekend, right?  It seemed like there were more hungover, cranky people than usual straggling through the day on Monday, which reminded me that there was a big sporting event the day before.

If you can’t tell, I’m not a big football fan.  I’m a big fan of the commercials usually… though I’ve gotten my fill of those long before the game ever airs.  AND, I can be a big fan of football fans, especially if their love of the game makes the world a better place. “When, by chance, does that ever happen, Wendy?” you may be asking.

Well, despite my lack of knowledge, or frankly, any care whatsoever, in the teams playing in the Super Bowl, I had been paying keen attention to one of the highly publicized bets that took place between two celebrities.  Of course it has to be Marvel related, right? Of course it does. The Marvel Universe even invades the Super Bowl.

Chris Pratt (also known as Star-Lord from Guardians of the Galaxy) and Chris Evans (Captain America from every other damn Marvel movie out there) placed a friendly wager on the Super Bowl that made me realize they’re probably just as good in real life as the heroes they portray on film. Here are links to catch up in case you haven’t seen the myriad of articles scattered throughout the internet already:

http://www.nydailynews.com/entertainment/gossip/chris-pratt-chris-evans-super-bowl-bet-charity-article-1.2087068

http://www.people.com/article/chris-evans-pratt-super-bowl-bet-update

The bet? If Seattle won, Evans has to visit the Seattle Children’s Hospital dressed as Captain America. If New England came out on top, Pratt would have to suit up as Star-Lord and traipse through the halls of Boston-based charity Christopher’s Haven.

The Twitter war between the two of them was so fun to watch (Chris Evans calling the Seahawks seachickens just tickled me to no end), mainly because in the end, the stakes aren’t for money or bragging rights or making the other person do something embarrassing and stupid. The end game is all about making sick kids happy and having kids who need strong role models to get through some extremely difficult things that life has thrown at them have a chance to meet their heroes. It’s equal parts being philanthropic, being fun, being gentlemanly, and being just a decent damn person.

And yes, it gets even better. With New England winning that means Star-Lord, aka Pratt, has to follow through and go to the Boston charity (which he is absolutely thrilled to do) – BUT – Evans isn’t about to sit on his laurels knowing that he brought sunshine to one group of kids and not another.  So even though Evans won the bet, Captain America is still going to visit the Seattle Children’s Hospital. It’s a win-win.

This is who I want my heroes to be. If I’m paying $16 to root and rally for them on the big screen I’m much more invested in giving the theaters and studios my money if I can root and rally for this person in real life. I don’t want my favorite heroes to be busted by the cops for getting into bar brawls, screaming anti-Semitic remarks, or hitting their significant others. When that happens it’s so much more apparent that the cape and cowl are just for a paycheck.

But when actors do something akin to what Pratt and Evans have done (and which these two do frequently by the way), that makes me feel that it’s not just a stupid movie part for them. Maybe it means something, maybe it’s a chance to communicate goodness…like they exhibit in real life. That, ultimately, is what makes them legit superheroes.

pratt_evans

Show Stoppers

Joy to the world! No, this is not a Christmas post. I’m happy because a cult classic show is being resurrected after twenty some-odd years. It was recently announced that David Lynch’s “masterpiece” Twin Peaks will be coming back for another season in 2015. While I haven’t seen a single episode I am happy for those fans who were devoted to the ill-fated gem that was cancelled right at a critical apex in the story arc. No spoiler here, I just know that what turned out to be the last episode of the series was certainly not designed to be that way. Lynch and his crew definitely had future plans that resulted in one of the most frustrating cliffhangers known in TV history.

And that’s what got me thinking. I HATE when shows get cancelled on a cliffhanger.  I can’t relate to Twin Peaks per se, but there was a show I absolutely adored on BBC called Coppers. It was set in post-Civil War era New York and showcased the lives of Irish immigrants. I probably didn’t really sell it in that description, but trust me, it was a great show. By all accounts, it should’ve stayed on the air. It had great ratings and a huge fan base, but BBC pulled the plug on it unexpectedly. Why? Money. It always comes down to money. The show got too expensive to maintain so they cancelled it and decided to run with Orphan Black instead. I guess I sort of understand. TV is a business like any other and networks need to pull in profits. But still, Coppers ended on this truly amazing cliffhanger and now I’m left with this sinking feeling in my stomach because I know that I’ll never, ever find out what happened. It will forever be an unresolved issue and that’s pretty awful.

In a perfect world television station bigwigs should go to a show’s producers/creators/brainchild and say, “Hey, we’re going to give you the ax, but you get [insert number] more episodes to wrap everything up before you’re off the air.” Wouldn’t that be great if shows always had the chance to tie up the loose ends as they take their final bow? Again, that’s a perfect world and unfortunately we don’t live in one.

Canning a show out of the blue is sort of like firing someone in an office. They have 30 minutes to put their stuff in a box and get escorted out by security. Quick, precise, and sleek so no one else around is too heavily affected. It’s not like they have the rest of the day to go around cubicle to cubicle shaking hands and wishing everyone well, so I know I shouldn’t expect TV shows to be given so much slack.

Still…it would be nice, wouldn’t it?

Heroes for Humanity

I love my superheroes. Batman, Superman, X-Men (past, current, and future classes), Deadpool (okay, well maybe he’s more of an anti-hero), and pretty much the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe. I geek out over these characters on a regular basis and take my appreciation of them pretty seriously. Which is why when I stumbled across the article “Superheroes Don’t Exist to Solve Problems, They Exist to Punch Bad Guys” (link here…although I am slightly against sending more internet traffic to this guy’s site) I felt like it was a personal attack on what I look at in my life as positive allegories on ways in which we should all strive to make the world better (did I mention I was a geek?).

The superheroes of popular film have little in common with the heroes of the real world.” This, shockingly enough, is the very first line of the article. Already I get a sense that the author has trouble understanding the definition of fiction as well as entertainment; how both of those mediums can be combined to mirror our reality without being bound by the same rules.

He continues by writing, “The archetypal superhero is a hands-on vigilante clad in form-fitting Lycra. Spider-Man, Batman, Superman, and The Flash all assert their heroism by busting small-time street criminals and delivering violent sermons on the importance of law and order.”

I really am at a loss for where to begin because I am getting a sense that this person doesn’t actually read any comics or even do as little work as to sit through any of the various two-hour movies out there before writing his article.

One viewing of the last Captain America movie The Winter Soldier would dispel his assertion. Yes, Captain America runs around with a shield and has a star on his chest, but his goal is not to put thugs in the hospital. He’s been disillusioned by his own government (one that up until now he has held in high regard) and is seeking a way to ensure that the privacy of the public is protected lest the country slip into a culture of distrust from illegal phone taps and email tampering. Sound familiar at all? On his quest to make sure millions of lives are saved from an international security agency cloaking their ascension to monarchy by weeding out the weaker links, Captain A runs into some resistance and has to take them out. Heaven forbid he has to get into a few fights. It’s more than clear he’s not some brute looking to get his jollies off by punching some noses. If there’s one thing Captain America stands for, it’s the “people” of the world.  He’s out to make a difference and to see that good wins over evil whether evil happens to be a man with a red skull for a face or his own national government.

Then there’s this: “Batman’s stated goal is to rid Gotham City of crime, but he rarely undertakes the actions that can tackle the causes rather than the effects of criminality. Bruce Wayne could use his lofty social standing to lobby for more education funding, tighter gun control, and a social safety net that would prevent young people from resorting to a life of crime. His wealth could be used to support drug clinics and foster prisoner rehabilitation programs to reduce recidivism. Instead, he puts on a black mask and a husky voice and goes to pound hapless street thugs in the night.”

First off, Bruce Wayne does use his lofty social standing to lobby for positive community initiatives (it’s a big thing in the comics actually). Sorry the comics don’t focus solely on that, but we’re looking for flights of fantasy and 22 pages about a new rec center breaking ground isn’t as thrilling as a car chase with The Penguin. It’s not that Bruce Wayne doesn’t do anything for the community; it’s just not the main focus because it’d make for quite a boring comic.

Stark Industries consistently works towards harnessing clean and renewable energy sources among other things. Superman/Clark Kent works at a damn newspaper so the public won’t be left in the dark on what their leaders are doing. Pretty much every superhero out there has a back story that is rich in these types of offerings, whether it’s a protective type of job (such as military), or a teacher helping young people, or a scientist who strives to help mankind or a philanthropist who strives to help everyone.

I could keep railing on and on trying to disprove every point the author made in his poorly researched attempt at trolling the “superhero fad” but this blog would end up being a book with how many examples exist out there.

The point is there’s more to every superhero than their power. It’s their conscience that drives them, not their ability to crush their enemy. In the end they do exactly what we do…they try to make a difference in the world around them using all of the tools at their disposal. Labeling them simply “pugilists” is a vast, vast underestimation. And it certainly does the writers of the stories a grave injustice.