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I’m so confused by the publishing sequence of Jane’s World August 19, 2019

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Okay, I’ve spent way too long trying to puzzle this out, so now I’m inflicting it on the rest of you.

Jane’s World is a gay-centric sitcom-style comic — a lot like Dykes To Watch Out For, but with cartoonier art, and less topical political commentary in favor of more surreal misadventures.

It was launched in March 1998, picked up for syndication in April 2002, and concluded in October 2018.

Here’s a review of the printed omnibus volume 1, if you want a bit about the contents without diving into the full online archive.

This post is just about the order things were published in. (more…)

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Avengers: Endgame miscellaneous spoilery thoughts May 16, 2019

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This and Captain Marvel are the only two MCU movies I’ve paid to see while they were in theaters. Both late enough that there were only a dozen people in the audience. (I also saw Black Panther and Spider-Man: Homecoming on a big screen, courtesy of the CWRU Film Society.)

Just gonna leave a block of spoiler-space and then jump right in.

(I have a non-spoilery Infinity War post over here, too.)

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So it turns out in the eighth Temeraire book, the hero gets amnesia February 28, 2019

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and of course he remembers his life right up to the start of the first book, but nothing from afterward, and it’s the greatest thing ever.

The rest of the characters have been cautioned not to tell him about anything that might give him a “shock.” Let’s see how well that goes.

Temeraire: Back away from this human, he’s my captain!

Laurence: what

Temeraire: And also, an adopted Prince of China!

Laurence: whAT

Temeraire: Laurence, I’m really sorry that I didn’t precipitate a major international conflict to rescue you sooner, please don’t be mad

Laurence: um???

Granby: Oh dear, now you have to re-learn that we have women serving as officers, including this teenage girl in your crew

Laurence: whomst

Granby: Also, these two African kids, whom you took on after…uhhhh…let’s not talk about the thing in Africa. Or the thing with the Inca Empire. Or your current rank and status with the military.

Laurence: uh

Admiral Roland (in a letter): you’re doing great, sweetie <3

Laurence: UHHH

Temeraire: No, of course you aren’t married, and that teenage girl is not your secret daughter!

Laurence: oh thank god

Temeraire: After all, you’ve only been getting it on with her mom for five years, and when you did propose, you got turned down

Laurence: WHAT

Temeraire: It’s fine, she probably wouldn’t want to move to Australia anyway

Laurence: wha

Temeraire: you know, the place we got exiled to? after the whole treason thing?

Laurence: W T ACTUAL F

Granby’s secret boyfriend: …yes…I’ve been awkward around you because of the…treason…definitely not any other sensitive personal info you might remember learning about at any moment

Laurence: ffffffff–

Temeraire: oh no, now you hate me, and you don’t even know the worst of it, which is that…because of me…you lost ten thousand pounds

Laurence: …and?

Temeraire: Uh. Apparently you forgot this too?? Ten thousand pounds is a lot of money

 

Literally All The Feelings I Have About Voltron December 13, 2018

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Final season is about to drop, so…

I’ve actually been watching the whole time, but pretty sure I’ve never talked about it anywhere? Because I don’t have enough feelings about it to be worth venturing into the massive wankpit that is the fandom.

But I do have some feelings, and may as well put them down somewhere.

In no particular order, general thoughts:

  • First-season setup was good!
  • Classic dramatic “we form Voltron for the first time out of friendship+panic” scene, good comedy “wait, how did we do that? will it help if we stack all our lions on top of each other? …and I’ll form the head?” follow-up.
  • Pidge is cool. Yeah, my fave is the Velma/Nenene mashup, no surprise there. (I was unspoiled for the twist, and didn’t see it coming, which was nice.)
  • Fans who try to treat Pidge as Canon Representation of anything other than a standard “girl dresses as a boy to sneak into something” plot arc are…tiring.
  • Allura is also cool. Elegant space-elf princess who’s secretly a dork and turns out to be awesome at martial arts? Nice.
  • Favorite side characters: those two Galra henchwomen. Can’t keep track of their names (or what they’re doing most of the time, tbh), but if I say Purple Jasper and Purple Ty Lee you’ll know who I mean.
  • There’s a little too much “we can’t take Voltron into battle, the supervillains might get it!” angst, at least in the early seasons. What’s the point of having a legendary battle mech if all you can do with it is hide it?
  • The plot could be really all-over-the-place. I would watch a season, then come to the internet later and see people having deep discussions about a whole chunk I had totally forgotten, because it was so disconnected from the rest that it just dropped out of my mind.
  • Feels like that got more pronounced as the seasons went on, but I couldn’t swear to it, and I’m not rewatching them all to check.
  • Special note: that handwavey game-show filler episode, in the most recent season? That kind of thing is designed to be a recap, refreshing casual viewers on all the salient plot points and where the different factions stand, before diving into the finale. And this one was just…random. There were funny jokes, don’t get me wrong! But not much else.
  • Also, the clone subplot in particular was rough. Every twist seemed to come out of nowhere, and leave no broader worldbuilding consequences in its wake.
  • I’m sure Shiro will be happy with his shiny new battle mech, but it’s still kind of a bummer that he’ll never really be reintegrated with Team Voltron.
  • In spite of all this griping, I’m tuning in for the final season. It has its funny moments, and some good character stuff, and I’m sure we’ll get a heartwarming ending full of the Power of Friendship.
  • Also, gotta get the firsthand look, so when the wankbomb explodes I’ll have some idea what everyone is yelling about.

And, on their own special list, thoughts about shipping!

  • I figured Lotura was gonna crash and burn when Lotor was revealed as evil eventually, but the execution was really good. Lots of “wait, this thing he’s doing is actually helpful, and has no obvious ulterior motive” buildup. You can believe the characters were won over.
  • Allura sucker-punching him into a wall afterward (or was it a floor? or whatever) was Good Content.
  • Klance was never gonna happen.
  • Sheith had more plausible “romantic tropey setup” moments, but if it was gonna happen, TPTB never would’ve included things like “you’re my brother” and “here’s an on-screen shot of them meeting when Keith is 12.” (Note: this does not make it OMG Terrible for fans to ship it.)
  • Holtcest had…uncomfortable amounts of canon chemistry. It’s like someone decided “okay, everyone knows these two aren’t going to be a canon couple, so nobody will feel shipteased if we play them like they’re in a Folger’s commercial.”
  • Allurance is fine. Standard setup, the general tropes aren’t my thing and the execution isn’t doing anything new, but it’s not rushed or obnoxious, either.
  • Shiro having a male ex, in a serious relationship, was an awesome reveal.
  • The discovery that TPTB had secret backup “no homo” alt-scripts for their conversation highlights how precarious our representation still is. The team must’ve had to fight up to the very last minute to get it in.
  • Pulling a Bury Your Gays with the ex was a poor choice, but I have a hunch it was because didn’t have the stamina to fight with management for a second scene with him and Shiro, even a post-romantic “we’ve both moved on, but I’m glad you’re okay now” scene.
  • If Shiro is getting married off to a random new bf in the final credits? That’s cool bu me. More would be great, but when it comes to “m/m content in Western kids’ cartoons” this already is more than usual, and will raise the bar for whoever comes next.

(December talking meme.)

Erin Reads: the Broken Earth trilogy, by N.K. Jemisen December 11, 2018

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Some thoughts about this multi-Hugo-award-winning trilogy. The parts I liked, and the parts that mean I’m going to end up complaining anyway.

I’ll mark the point where the spoilers kick in.

The series takes place on a dystopian far-future Earth where geology has gone horribly awry, leading to a pattern of disastrous “Seasons.” Communities that still exist have developed long-term survival techniques like “maintain store-caches with a decade’s worth of food at all times.”

A subset of humans are born with the ability to sense and control earthquakes by redistributing energy. You would think this would be a great and useful skill that communities compete to attract, but nope, they’re hated and feared so much that discovery of the skill can prompt people to murder their own children. There’s an isolated training center that trains and controls them, and residents of that center are hired and tolerated — just barely.

Pros:

  • The writing is very good
  • The worldbuilding is cool and unique
  • Frank, unashamed inclusion of queer+trans characters
  • Lots of pretty stuff going on with magic rocks

Cons:

  • Don’t get too attached to anyone, because main characters keep dying right and left
  • [see spoilers]

One cool layer in the worldbuilding is how much disparate strands of culture are influenced by the worldbuilding. There’s no sense of religion, other than an anthropomorphization of the Earth itself as a malevolent force. All their swearwords are derived from rocks/dirt/geological events. Organized study of astronomy is gone, because everyone’s survival depends on looking down to such a degree that nobody has time to look up.

(Spoilers start here.) (more…)

Danger & Eggs review: It’s really good, but mostly not for the reasons it gets hyped for. August 10, 2018

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So I finally had a chance to watch Danger & Eggs, the Amazon Prime animated kids’ show. Only one season so far, 13 episodes, most of them consisting of two distinct 12-minute segments.

It’s a lot of cute fun.

You know how Phineas and Ferb is partly about mundane suburban family stuff, but the kids’ adventures keep pushing the bounds of fantasy and sci-fi, and meanwhile there’s a world of secret-agent animals fighting mad scientists that they keep intersecting with?

That’s the energy Danger & Eggs has. It centers around a city park where people walk their dogs, rent the clamshell for concerts, hold ren faires…and don’t bat an eye at the underground full of leftover experiments from a failed mad-science organization.

Our heroes are D.D. Danger, human girl whose father was a famous stuntman, and Phil, giant talking egg whose mother is a house-sized mutant chicken. D.D. is wild, energetic, and adventurous; Phil is nervous, quiet, and safety-conscious. They are Best Friends. The comedy writes itself.

And it’s never mean comedy, either. They appreciate each other’s differences! There’s an episode where they wander into a labyrinth controlled by a slightly-deranged AI, get separated, and the AI creates an “ideal” simulation of each of them to entice the other into staying forever. But its strategy backfires — holo!D.D. is quiet and listless, holo!Phil is reckless and hyperactive, and the real kids discover that this isn’t appealing at all, that their friendship works because of how they balance each other out.

So that’s the good part.

The bad part is, before I started watching, all I knew about the show was “it’s full of LGBTQ characters! It has such good gay and trans representation! The whole last episode takes place at a Pride parade!”

Which meant I got pretty let down as the stuff I was expecting…didn’t happen.

(more…)

Erin Listens: The Gateway July 11, 2018

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Just finished listening to The Gateway: a 6-part podcast series about “Teal Swan, a new brand of spiritual guru, who draws in followers with her hypnotic self-help YouTube videos aimed at people who are struggling with depression and suicidal thoughts.”

(So if you don’t want to read a long post about those things, you should bail out here.)

I’d never heard of Teal before this, and I still don’t know anything about her beyond what’s in this report. But I do know a few things about psychiatry that aren’t in the series.

And based on that…I have complaints.

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I dread the day when the suffering of my fellow is none of my concern June 28, 2018

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I’ve had Grace Petrie’s “They Shall Not Pass” in pretty heavy rotation for a few days now, and wanted to share.

Stand up today that we might save tomorrow
Oh I know there’s a way that we might save tomorrow
Yes it’s late in the day but we might save tomorrow if we try

We shall not turn against each other, for our creed or for our colour
Nor the ones we choose our lovers, or our class
You that beckon us that way, you shall not pass

Erin Watches: Scandal, the final season, through the finale April 24, 2018

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So…that happened.

I didn’t binge-watch the back half of the season, just kept up every week or two, so no liveblogging this time. Instead you get a long stream of final thoughts.

Plus, a rec for The West Wing Weekly. It’s a WW recap podcast with Joshua Malina (Will Graham in TWW, David Rosen here in Scandal) as co-host, and tons of high-profile guests (like, up to “sitting US senator” level) and in-depth conversations. Episode 4.18 dovetails with the Scandal finale, and features some sweet behind-the-scenes stories.

I really miss the days when Olivia Pope and Associates were actually taking cases.

Only one guy showed up at the office asking for help this season. And his problem turned out to be that he was being framed by Olivia, to take the heat off herself and/or Mellie. Quinn and the others did absolutely nothing to help — their only advice at the end was “even though you did literally nothing wrong, all you can do is flee the country and start a new life. Somewhere without extradition.”

And that was basically the whole season. Our core cast arranging itself into shifting alliances and going after each other, helping no one, leaving a lot of innocent people as collateral damage along the way.

The show always had a theme of characters making Dramatic Speeches that weren’t backed up by the rest of the writing. Sometimes they were working on bad information; other times they had obvious reasons to lie; other times they had a motive and were running with whatever line of BS backed it up.

That last one came up during the How To Get Away With Murder crossover event, where Olivia made some stuff up to cover for whatever illegal thing she was in on. Never followed HTGAWM, so I don’t know how much eyerolling that protagonist deserves, but it was a relief when she actually managed to catch it and call Olivia out.

(My favorite example is that election-season episode when a bomb went off, and one of Still President Fitz’s primary opponents was on-site pulling people out of the rubble. Which of course is terrible publicity for your opponent to get…so Olivia was on the phone with TV stations, yelling things like “Your President is making a speech! That should be your top priority!” It’s the perfect combination of self-serving BS, protagonist-centered morality, and total lack of compassion for innocent victims.)

Anyway, I bring this all up because as of this season, they’ve overplayed the trick so hard that it’s lost all its power.

“He was my friend!” yells Dad Pope in anguish, over a guy he long-conned, manipulated, and just murdered. “Tell the truth — the truth will be your armor,” declares Olivia to Mellie with total conviction, before they discuss how she definitely can’t tell the truth about the election they all conspired to steal. It’s absurdist. It’s nonsense. All you can do is groan and roll your eyes and wait for them to get on with it, already.

As we roll into the last few episodes, the setup on the chessboard looks like this:

–Olivia, during her stint as Command of extra-evil-secret-CIA B-613, had a visiting head-of-state assassinated (on plausibly-deniable non-orders from President Mellie). She’s been covering it up ever since.

–Vice President Cyrus staged a cyber-hijacking of Air Force Two, which got him lots of attention and let him make a heroic “let us go to our deaths with bravery” speech that got filmed by the press on-board. He’s following that up by trying to frame Mellie for the hijacking and get her impeached.

–The firm-formerly-known-as-OPA ducklings are trying to expose Olivia. No, wait, they’re friends with Olivia again, they’re trying to expose Cyrus. All without exposing the fact that most of them have B-613 murders on their hands themselves.

–Dad Pope is officially retired from Command, but (as mentioned) still murdering people on his own time. Also, complaining a lot about white people.

–Jake has been shuffled around a variety of high-ranking positions based on whatever’s most convenient for keeping him in White House proximity. I think he’s officially Command now? And he’s siding with VP Cyrus in terms of who he’s murdering these days.

–Also, remember Jake’s wife, and how he seriously considered choking her to death in her sleep last season? Yeah, she’s dead now. Didn’t even get some kind of “intrepid investigator on the verge of exposing all his other crimes” storyline leading up to it. I feel like he just got tired of not murdering her.

We should also note that, at this point, B-613…does not appear to have any actual agents left. Frankly, I’m not sure they ever had more than 6 at a time in the first place.

Which you would think would kinda hamper their job as a super-competent ominous secret death squad.

So with all those pieces in place, Congress is holding special pre-impeachment hearings, trying to figure out exactly who to prosecute on what charges. (Everyone for everything? Wouldn’t be too far off.)

And…they actually get correct information! While investigating Mellie for the fake hijacking, they come across the real assassination, so that’s when Olivia decides to take full responsibility and out the existence of B-613 to the world. The rest of the ducklings follow along and testify about their own roles.

The person in charge of the actual prosecuting is Attorney General Josh Malina. So there’s this dramatic overnight when nobody knows what the committee is going to recommend to him, but the smart money is on:

–Throw out VP Cyrus for staged terrorism
–Put Olivia, Huck, Quinn, Quinn’s baby-daddy, and Jake in jail for the B-613-related subset of their crimes
–Nothing for Mellie, she’s cool.

This is when Cyrus calls the Attorney General and claims he wants to make a deal. So, naturally, the AG goes to his house and has a drink alone with him.

I cannot tell who in this situation is more wall-bangingly stupid — the AG, who thought this was safe, or Cyrus, who apparently thought “if the guy whose job is to prosecute me abruptly dies in my house with no witnesses, that won’t be at all suspicious!”

Except that…somehow…it…works??

Like…one of the last scenes is Olivia handing Cyrus a letter of resignation and saying “even though you’re not being prosecuted, you’re going to sign this now.” Why not?? He very obviously just murdered the AG on top of everything else! The Deputy AG could be dumb as a box of rocks and still get a conviction! I would put Cyrus away for life on that evidence even if the prosecutor was literally a box of rocks!

Also: Dad Pope makes a surprise last-minute appearance in front of the committee. Confirms the existence of B-613. Makes a grand speech about how it controlled who got the presidency, it set the value of the dollar, it secretly had all the real power in the US government. All handled by this cabal of as many as six (6) assassins at one time. Sure, Jan.

But…for some reason…that means…no jail time for anyone at all???

Dad Pope confesses to running the operation, and therefore none of the operatives are accountable for anything? Dad Pope was retired when Olivia committed her war crimes, but his presence means nobody’s mad about that anymore either??

How.

It’s not even…I mean, it’s the last episode. They know it’s the last episode. There’s no need to force the characters back to the status quo in preparation for next season! They could do a flash-forward, slip in a bit of exposition about how everyone’s served their time for crimes committed, and end on a reunion! A few hugs, a few tears, a profound sense of relief that they’ve finally taken responsibility for all their bad deeds and can start fresh, pan out on a nice sunny DC landscape, curtain.

And instead, absolutely everything fizzles.

Don’t get me wrong, Quinn finally getting a wedding (with Huck officiating! and her baby-daddy finally revealing his non-alias name!) was cute. But it didn’t make up for the otherwise-total dramatic kerflop.

During the time this season was running, I found out that Grey’s Anatomy was on Netflix, and managed to binge the entire back catalog. Didn’t actually realize it was a Shonda Rhimes show until a few seasons in.

You can see a bit of shared DNA — the same style of Dramatic Important Speeches, the engaging high-stakes drama, the mostly-underwhelming romances, the occasional physically-abusive man who’s supposed to be a sad woobie. But I would not have guessed they were connected without prompting, because most of the Grey’s characters…are decent human beings. They’re kind. Honorable. Genuinely trying to do good in the world.

Some of them are ridiculous, too. And I’m not deeply invested in most of the characters as people (except Christina — I would’ve been so mad if they killed off Christina — and Bailey — listen, writers, y’all better not do wrong by Bailey). But you know what, it is enjoyable and fulfilling to watch.

(Also: lesbian and bi characters! Who are described in those words! And have long-term romantic dramas like anyone else! And who are mostly still alive!)

Anyway, the point of this detour is that the later episodes of Scandal started coming with ads for her new show, Station 19. Which, as far as I’m concerned, was not a compelling advertising strategy.

But then someone on FFA said it was in the same mode as Grey’s, i.e. “noble melodramatic people” rather than “aggressively terrible people”, so I gave it a try. Turns out it’s straight-up a shared universe with Grey’s, crossover characters and everything.

(Also: gay man on the team! Who’s been comfortably out of the closet since long before the pilot episode, and nobody thinks twice about the fact that he had a husband!)

So, yeah. Scandal was a mess, but if you admire Shonda’s talent and would like to experience it in a less soul-crushing format, I recommend both of the above.

…and she’s also debuting a new legal drama, so if anyone wants to tip me off about whether We The People is written by Scandal!Shonda or Grey’s!Shonda, it’ll be much appreciated.

Erin Watches: Adventures with Tip and Oh season 3, part 2 March 5, 2018

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Just finished the back half of season 3! And I think this was the first time we had a real multi-episode arc plot. I didn’t even realize it was happening until we got to the full-length finale, and it started following up on elements that were established in earlier episodes. Even the solution was foreshadowed. (Maybe a little too obviously, especially since it’s not on a week-to-week release schedule where viewers might forget a plot from three episodes ago. But props for trying.)

Movie continuity shoutouts: Episode 11a involves Tip and Oh re-enacting the “interrupting cow” scene. Using sock puppets. It’s adorable. Episode 12a has Tip replace her mom’s profile pic on a dating app — a cropped screencap of the movie — on the grounds that “it doesn’t even look like her!” And the finale involves what I assume is a reference to the IRL controversy where they designed a cover for the DVD with no sign of Tip on it. (Someone releases a comic about the story, with a giant Oh dominating the cover and a tiny stick-figure Tip on the side, telling the story of “Oh And Some Human.” Tip is…not pleased.)

Gender stuff: Episode 9b has Tip and Oh start a spacegoing pseudo-Girl-Scouts group, open to all. Oh starts listing off identities that are welcome, including genders, including “boy, girl, boyboy, boygirl, boyboygirlgirl…” That last one isn’t a canonical Boov gender. Does that mean…growing awareness of non-septenary Boov? Or nonbinary humans coming up with their own variations on Boov gender? Or both?

And episode 12b really doubles down on Oh being a canon boyboy, huh. “Tip will be so proud when I tell her that I am being a brave boyboy now.”

Miscellaneous notes:

A few more episodes with repetitive themes. Tip makes a new alien friend and Oh gets jealous! Encountering a new group of Boov who haven’t interacted with humans, and treat us like exotic/scary animals (complete with “safari” through Chicago), until they make friends! At least one of them paid off in the finale.

I did like the running gag of “hot dogs are full of try-not-to-think-about-it.”

Episode 10b starts with Oh drawing AU fanart of Tip’s diary. And ends with Tip inventing a terrifyingly dramatic story in order to scare Oh away from messing with her diary in the future. It involves Sharzod and a team of Boov having a dramatic mall battle against Tip and a team of DieAnne-and-biker-friends.

Episode 12a reveals that Tip is a fan of something called Volcano Biker Cops 12. (In which “true love” is revealed to be “two misfit cops overcoming their differences before riding their motorbikes over a volcano.”) I’m so happy that there are 12 of them.

At some point in episode 13 we have this fabulous exchange: “Sharzod’s house is a spaceship!” “How did this never come up??” “I has told you many times.” Cue a sequence of strategically-modified flashbacks to earlier episodes. Much as I enjoyed the bits of the finale that were thoughtfully foreshadowed, that was a great gag.

Final thoughts: [spoiler] and Kyuubey need to make friends. [Spoiler]: “I wasn’t hiding anything! I would have told you [evil plot] if you’d simply asked!” Tip: “Who asks that.”

…Now I have to remember to draw Puella Magi Tip some time.