December 26, 2015

Thanks for a Great Year!

Hey everyone!

It's been a pretty awesome year for me. I know I've been relatively lax here on the blog, but I have been very productive this year outside of here, and I thought I'd share some of my great experiences and just share my appreciation for all my friends out there who put up with my geekiness and whatnot. I had an incredible summer, seeing the San Diego Symphony perform the score to Star Trek: Into Darkness with Mckenna​ and Johanna​. I took an amazing writing class with professor Daniel Mueller​ wherein I got to develop my writing voice and skills further. I also got to see Halestorm​ with Davis!

I had an amazing semester at Willamette. I saw Lindsey Stirling live in Portland (again with Mckenna because she's awesome like that), and expanded my writing experience by writing weekly articles fro The Odyssey​ and delving into writing a draft of a book that I'd had in my head for several years. I even received news that I'll be presenting a paper next semester at a gender symposium at Lewis and Clark University. I finished out the year by seeing The Force Awakens with Vanessa, a film that recaptured the feel of Star Wars for even casual fans like myself, and had a pretty kickass Christmas with the little cousin. I have a whole new set of books to read for next year and can't wait to delve into this new material.

The year was good to me, and I'm extremely lucky in that regard. I have supportive friends and family, genuinely caring professors and fellow students, and have been thriving in an atmosphere of encouragement and general success. It's been a crazy 2015, and I hope 2016 will be just as great if not better. I do hope to get back on this blog and post more often (though given the workload for the next semester, I make no promises). I thank you for your continued support and dedication. Happy holidays and have a great New Year!

December 6, 2015

Symposiums, Finals, and Progress Charts


So, this is my progress as of last night! I'm making good headway, I think, which is good for me 'cause as it turns out, I've been accepted to give a talk at the 35th annual Women's and Gender Studies Symposium at Lewis and Clark College in March! This is an incredible opportunity for me, and I'm very humbled by it, however this does mean that I'll be needing to draft a paper over break as well, do lots of research and reading and all that, something that i hadn't exactly realized was going to be solidified when I started this whole writing a book in five weeks thing. So yeah, needless to say, I'm a bit stressed, but in a good way, like the way you are during a workout... or so I'm told- I've only worked out like back in high school so my memories of that time are filled with pain and tears.

Anyway, I digress.

The point is, this WGS symposium is super cool and I'm so excited for it! My topic will be on the representation of women and gender in the IDW Transformers comics. Because when I think cornerstone of academia and social movements, I know my mind leaps right into the lap of a franchise built on the sweat of male testosterone, dammit!

It's finals week for me starting tomorrow, but thankfully I only have one actual test I need to do; naturally it's next Saturday, which means I get the whole week to study and whatnot. I'm both pleased and annoyed by this, because I'd like to just get this Latin test over with and go home, but on the other hand, it is nice to have the extra time. I also have violin juries on Wednesday, so I'm now prepping for that. My teacher has more confidence in me than I do at this point; she's assigned me the usual: scales, arpeggios, and a solo, but then on our last lesson before jury, she added that I should play a scale of thirds for the panel... which I guess I did alright on in the lesson but I hadn't exactly planned on doing it for a grade, so... y'know, I was a bit caught off guard. So I'll be doing that! Yay.

This semester overall has been very good for me in terms of discipline. I've built upon my admittedly not-too-shabby time management skills, and I've learned so much from my classes! Astronomy in particular, while the weakest class for me in terms of grades, was just amazing in terms of the subject matter, and the professor was really good. At the end of her final lecture, as she was running out of time so had to rush through to finish it off, we gave her a class-wide round of applause and that made me smile real big because y'know, she deserved that, and it was all nice and everything!

I hope you all do well on your own final exams or papers or pull through to the end of your jobs for the year or whatever else you're stressing over during the holiday season! You can do it! I believe in you!!

November 19, 2015

So, I'm Writing a Novel Over Christmas Break! (Plus Other News)


Yeah, I know, it's been a long time! Sorry about that; I've been really quite busy. this semester hasn't left much room for down time, I'm afraid, and based on my schedule for next semester, it doesn't look to be letting up.

On the bright side, I have declared my second major! I'm now a duel major in Creative Writing and Women's and Gender Studies! I feel super great about this, and this kinda ties into the main point of this post (which is actually a re-post of a tumblr post I did two days ago, but I figured what the hell, this blog hasn't been active for over a month, so this seems like as a good a time as any to update it).

As we near the end of the semester and look ahead into Christmas break, I've formed a plan.

So, I have a five-week Christmas vacation because my university is generous like that (thank god).

And so I thought I’d take the time to really sit down and just get a fast draft of my novel out onto the page.

I plan to get a good 50000 words down by the end.

My daily writing goal will be 2000 words per day. This will give me room to relax or have a couple days off or whatever.

Lofty? I mean, for me definitely. My writing process is essentially “if I feel like writing, I’ll write, and if not, then I won’t.” (This blog is that process in extreme practice, I know.) And that might not sound so bad, but trust me, it’s terrible. When I get into writing, then yeah, I’ll get a good week of solid writing done and then burn out, but that happens so rarely nowadays. I also tend to labor over scenes until they’re gleaming, so I never get anywhere beyond a single scene or a chapter or whatever. So given that, obviously, I’ve never fast-drafted anything before, nor have I ever tackled something this massive besides school projects, but I think this will be a great learning experience if nothing else!

Why Now?

I’ve had this story rolling around in my head for about three or four years now, and I have written some material for it, but nothing substantial, so I thought now would be a good time to just get it all down on paper

I’ve also recently been inspired by several writers and peers and classes. My Close Reading class has been pretty cool, and reading always inspires me. (I should really do more of it, but that’s a whole other deal.) I’ve made a couple good writing friends over the years; my good friend Nina over at mirandandnina, a person I admire as a writer and especially as an editor, has a WIP that is actually pretty solid, so that’s inspired me since like the summer. Seeing that a person I actually know in real life can write something, get thoughts down on paper, form scenes and have engaging characters-that’s very motivating and validating, because it means that writing a book isn’t an abstract idea anymore; someone I know is doing it! And that means I can do it too! Maybe not as well, but I can try, dammit!

Also, Ava Jae, one of my favorite writers/writing advice people ever, has a new book coming out next spring (and I’ve already got my copy preordered), and she’s talked a little bit about her process and it just inspired me to do something about this story idea! Also, the fact that she’s pretty much a fast-drafting diva (she wrote a rough draft of her book in THREE WEEKS!!! WHAT THE FUCK?!?!?!?!?) makes me want to test the waters of that skill-set and see what I got!

Also, this post of course is a huge motivator for me! I’d seen it before but coupled with the above it just got me even more psyched

I’ve also always pulled out the excuse that “oh, I’m too busy” or “oh man that can wait, I’ve got all this schoolwork and all this research that needs to happen first.” Well, there’s no excuse like that this time… kind of (I actually do have a research project going on, but I haven’t gotten any official go-ahead yet). But seriously, this vacation is about as free as I’m gonna be, I think, so this is a perfect time for this! The is going to be an exercise in building up my extremely lax writing habits. I call myself a writer, but I’m much more of an idea guy right now since I don’t put many ideas on paper. So I’m hoping this will change that. Also, a five-week break from classes sounds great, but by the third or fourth week I’m always feeling so lethargic, so writing should keep me on my toes.

Anyway, wish me luck! I do still have about three weeks left in the semester (and holy shit are they going by slow), so I still have a ways to go before this happens. I want to put this down in writing so that my goal is known and people can hold me to it!

September 5, 2015

Something Awesome III- Lindsey Stirling Live in Portland, OR, 2015


Lindsey Stirling performing at Keller Auditorium on September 4, 2015!

There are those moments that will stick with you forever, and even though you haven't lived forever and you can't look back on them with enough distance yet to really say with certainty that this is true, there's just something about these moments that capture you so much that you just instinctively know that they'll be with you always. It's a feeling that crops up in both sporadic bursts and in such rare instances that to experience the feeling is almost as memorable as the event itself.

I've now seen Lindsey Stirling live in concert twice, and with this second experience I am very tempted to say that this is probably the one that'll stick with me. While my first time seeing her on stage was a dream come true and meeting her was about the best thing that could've happened and something that I will obviously remember and cherish always, this second time had an affect on me that both surprised and moved me. If you read last year's Overview, you'll know that I'd kind of fallen out of sync with what Lindsey was doing creatively. I was not and still am not a fan of where she's ended up with her career. As I stated last year, I feel like she's shelled out her passion and unique identity to make way for advertisement and promotion, something that I believe is directly in opposition and contrast to what Lindsey is about.

Well, after a day of reflecting on yesterday's Portland concert experience, I'm happy to say that this concert pretty much rejuvenated my admiration and love for this former idol of mine. There are a number of reasons for this. First, I hadn't been listening to Lindsey Stirling's music for a good while, so seeing her again with this fresh perspective made me appreciate the music in a kind of renewed way; it reminded me of why I loved it so much. Moreover, the passion and the creativity on display last night was almost palpable and took me back to what I loved about Lindsey in the first place.


Keller Auditorium!
Going from playing in a tiny venue with an open bar in the corner to this... that's amazing!

As I sat there watching the concert unfold, I of course couldn't help but compare it to my first time seeing her. Quality-wise, it's night and day. Lindsey Stirling has improved so much both as an entertainer on stage and most especially as a violinist. She stays in tune and has firm bow contact with the string; her power doesn't wane when in higher positions anymore, and her confidence is so much more evident now. This really impressed me, because it showed that even with all this success and fame, she's not above improving herself and her sound. That's very important to me and really does ring true to who Lindsey is as a person insofar as we can infer from her videos and blogs and whatnot. Her skills as a violinist were on display last night and development and growth was evident in spades.

Indeed, what made this show so amazing to me were actually the quieter slower moments. She performed this beautiful acoustic layered version of her "Song of the Caged Bird" piece and it was just absolutely beautiful to behold. Her emotions during that piece in particular were palpable and moving. Likewise, her rendition of "Transcendence", one of my old favorites, was so moving, thanks in no small part to the speech she gave before it, talking about how we all have the potential in us to be happy and affect each other positively so long as we remember to love ourselves. Cheesy perhaps, but as Lindsey herself has battled anorexia and depression, one can't help but feel these words coming from her are genuine.


Lindsey Stirling performs "Shadows"


Lindsey Stirling performs "Elements"

Being that this was kind of a catch-all tour, she included several hits from both albums, and all of the stuff she decided to take from her second album Shatter Me was performed very well here. In fact, so good were the live performances of these tracks that I'm now convinced that Shatter Me was meant to be performed live. In concert, gone were the heavy synthetic overtones and techno beats, instead showcasing Lindsey's own violin playing that I felt didn't get to shine as much on her second album. The fun energy that Lindsey is known for was on full throttle here. And maybe it was just being able to be in the room with her performing these or being able to see her that put me in a mind to accept these pieces as good, but no matter the reason, Lindsey Stirling's live performance of selected tracks from Shatter Me made that album come to life in ways that the perfected studio release couldn't hope to capture. It really was an amazing experience hearing those pieces live.

One of her biggest fan demographics is the gaming community, and to honor them and excite the rest of us, she decided to eschew playing just one of her video game medleys and instead created a whole video game video-and-music medley culled from her covers of the Zelda, Dragon Age, Assassin's Creed, Skyrim, and Halo game music! It was a truly epic experience!

When the music didn't capture my attention, the visuals certainly did. Lindsey's YouTube centrism was nicely conveyed on the stage this time around. Instead of a tiny screen in the background of the stage as was the case in 2012, now Lindsey had a full holographic and projector display covering the entire stage! It was a great setup, allowing her to interact with multiple shadow puppets of herself when she performed "Shadows", and gave her some awesome space and oceanic themes when playing "Stars Align" and "Elements" and "Crystallize" respectively.

The fit and finish of this concert was damn good, but that's not to say that it was flawless. The stage lights and strobe effects were dialed up to eleven, and while I don't have epilepsy, even I was closing my eyes just to avoid being temporarily blinded. This actually had a negative effect in terms of seeing Lindsey up on stage too, as the lights were pointed directly at the audience some of the time meaning that Lindsey was obscured up there. Luckily, the music was engaging and captivating enough to keep this from becoming too big of a problem.

Bottom line, this concert was great. I had a great time before the show with my friend who went with me too. We actually ended up eating at this super swank restaurant on accident... I don't know why we decided to stay there, but we did and oh my god the food was amazing. But the concert itself was more than just a fun night. It reinvigorated my appreciation for Lindsey Stirling as an artist and gave me a new appreciation for her music! The level of improvement that Lindsey showed as a violinist was astonishing, and the quality of the venue, effects, and overall enthusiasm was a big win. This experience was one that I won't soon forget!


Got me a poster! It is the only decoration in my dorm room.

August 29, 2015

I'm on Odyssey!!!

Hi, all!

Just here to give you all an update about what's been going on. My sophomore year has started up here at WU, and I can already tell it's gonna keep me really, really busy. I don't know how much time I'll have to blog, and any long-term projects I have will have to be put on hold until Christmas break.

Luckily, I am now a writer for the online magazine The Odyssey, a web-based news and opinions site run by and for college students and millennials in general. It's Greek-life founded, but obviously you don't have to be in a frat or sorority to write for it or read it (obviously, I'm not in a fraternity, because y'know, I don't want to be associated with the word "douchebag" anymore than I already am).

My school's division of The Odyssey is brand new, so I'm pretty stoked to be a part of something at its inception. The staff is really awesome and so far they've been quite supportive and helpful. Anyway, if you want to check it out, there's some excellent material on the site. If you decide to read any of the material, please share it on your various social medias. I know that sounds like a plug, and I guess it is, but shares on Facebook is mainly how the site draws in viewers and keeps itself afloat (plus, depending on how many shares your article gets, it can be picked as one of the Top Articles, and I kinda want to get there!). I myself have written one article and have a few more lined up in the queue. Most of the current material I have is stuff that's been majorly or slightly reworked from previous posts here, but I'm hoping to branch out and do full-on original content once the school-year settles.

Anyway, I wanted to give you all a heads up about what's up, adn alert you to this exciting new opportunity for me.

August 6, 2015

Shadowcon Overviews- Buffy and the Strong Female Character, Part X

Epilogue


“I've seen the best and the worst of you, and I understand, with perfect clarity, exactly what you are. You're a hell of a woman. You’re the one, Buffy.”

-Spike to Buffy in “Touched”

Still one of the most badass moments in the series!
I will be perfectly honest, after having finishedup Season One of Buffy for the first time, I was not optimistic about continuing the show. While I had of course read that it got better with most considering Season Two to be Buffy at its best (though I would hold up Season Five for that category) Season One really had very little in it that made me enjoy it. This had a lot to prove to me going forward, and fortunately, it succeeded… a lot! Going back and re-watching the show in its entirety after giving myself a break from both it and Firefly for a bit also helped me to appreciate it on a more objective level, and while not perfect, Buffy is a testament to the science fiction/fantasy genre that people are willing to see a show of this caliber and are willing to attempt to glean some meaning from the messages that the show conveys.

Buffy’s messages of woman empowerment, the breaking of gender norms, and especially female agency all mesh together almost seamlessly throughout the work, and the humanizing of the characters makes the show that much more compelling and helps those other elements not feel overt. It strikes that almost impossible-to-hit mark of how to tell a compelling woman empowerment story without relying solely on the “strong female character” stereotype or by relying on mere visuals to get its audience to understand its message. Buffy as a character holds up as one of the best examples of how to write a woman character not only as a role model for women in the sci-fi/fantasy/action genre, but also of how to write a woman character as a human being in that genre as well. Taking not only her physical aspects but also her emotional ones, her strength of character, her humor, her wit, her mind, her articulation of thought, and recognizing these qualities as a part of who we are as a people, helps make Buffy who she is and in-so-doing helps us connect with her on a far deeper level than we would if we were to just see her fight week after week.

Sarah Michelle Gellar actually seems to agree with my point that Hollywood has strayed from what made Buffy great, only focussing on the superficial aspects of the work and never capturing what made it tick. She stated in an interview with Perthnow.com that she is actually quite dismayed about the specific effects that Buffy is having on the industry:

"There is only one curse and it’s not what people expect. The one curse is, as an actor, you get very spoiled because you think all female characters are going to be that exciting, that interesting, that flawed- and that’s really not the case in Hollywood. The show proved it was OK to have a strong female character, a heroine, on television. Wonder Woman was a Glamazon. She was beautiful and had jewelry. [But] Buffy was a human. As humans, we fight the horrors of our life to get through the day. It was an elevated drama, an elevated comedy, and a metaphor for the different parts of life."

And that's the difference. Buffy had novelty to it, absolutely, but it crafted itself out to be something better than that.

July 30, 2015

Shadowcon Overviews- Buffy and the Strong Female Character, Part IX

Is the Buffy Solution Absolute?


“From now on, every girl in the world who might be a Slayer, will be a Slayer. Every girl who could have the power, will have the power, can stand up, will stand up. Slayers, every one of us. Make your choice. Are you ready to be strong?”

-Buffy to the Potential Slayers in “Chosen”

Your move, Hollywood!
The ambiguous question posed to Buffy by her sister Dawn at the end of the series, “what are you going to do now” could be seen as a sly question posed not only to Buffy, but to the corporations of film and television in general. Now that this progressive, thoughtful, in-depth, character-and thematically-driven show has run its course, what is Hollywood to do with this new set of standards, or rather, the breaking of those standards set by Hollywood? If the last ten years are any indication, I argue that we still have a lot to learn from Buffy (though obvious strides forward are evident). “Faith asks Buffy how it will feel to live ‘like a person.’ One possible reading of this” notes Jowett, “is that as women who have experienced agency and power… [they] will never have a ‘normal’ life in the patriarchal world of the contemporary United States,” because in the contemporary United States, or at least Hollywood and the big corporations that surround it, people do not seem to realize that audiences love seeing well-written, humanized women characters in film. There is a reason Buffy is studied academically: it breeds inspiration on an intellectual and philosophical level (I'll get back to this point in the final part), and it carries with it an important message not only of female physical empowerment, but also of female agency and personhood. That said, the show is not without its flaws, and, just as I examined the potential strengths of the “strong female character”, so too will I discuss the flaws that one could point out in Buffy.

July 23, 2015

Shadowcon Overviews- Buffy and the Strong Female Character, Part VIII

Buffy, Faith, and the Good Girl/Bad Girl Dichotomy


“Isn’t it crazy how slayin’ just makes you hungry and horny?”

-Faith in “Faith, Hope & Trick”

Faith Lehane, the second Slayer activated after Buffy (the first being Kendra), is a fairly complicated character amongst the cast of both Buffy and Angel, and it's easy to see why. She's haughty, rebellious, fierce, physically dominating, and rash. If the Slayer represents emotionlessness and physical empowerment for women at the behest of patriarchal rule, as I have argued, Faith represents the sexual dominance that the patriarchy might find appealing in women, and also serves to present Buffy with a darker version of her Slayer self. Jowett writes that Faith arguably “verbalizes the viewer’s enjoyment of both sex and violence in the show.” She notes that Buffy is a “Good Girl” while Faith is a “Bad Girl,” exhibiting qualities such as using her sexuality as a weapon, abusing her physical power for her own personal gain, and having an unsettling tendency to kill innocent people without a second thought. While Buffy exhibits Faith’s sexual desires and participates in using her body as a sexual weapon, she is exempted from falling into the same “Bad Girl” category as Faith because of the way this abrasive and assaulting behavior is presented to her character as a development of an already-established person, rather than as an introductory characteristic as seen with Faith.

July 16, 2015

Shadowcon Overviews- Buffy and the Strong Female Character, Part VII

Buffy and Sexuality


“I know you'll never love me. I know that I'm a monster. But you treat me like a man.”

-Spike to Buffy in “The Gift”

Oh boy. Here we are, looking at one of the most controversial and talked-about relationships in the whole series, and on No-Pants Thursday, no less, so things are already at risk!

Like any other section of this work, I would like to ground this analysis in the context of what this means for Buffy as going against (or conforming to) the “strong female character” stereotype. I mention this because this section was probably the most challenging for me to write for three reasons. First, my handle on the discussed relationship is fairly slippery compared to what has been said before by other people; this section had the most rewrites, expansions, edits, and god-knows-what-else done to it before finally arriving here because I always felt that I was talking too much about one thing and not enough about another.

Second, what this section covers is probably the most debated and indeed problematic relationship of the whole show. While some may be quick to defend this as being “daring” or “a gutsy move” by the writers, I think this is a case where the writers’ faults and imperfections should be as much a part of the discussion as the content itself; it is okay to admit that a show has some artistic and narrative faults, after all, and I don't think those who see this relationship as a problematic one in terms of narrative and characters are not without ground on which to stand. That's why this is so complex; like any good story, there are differing and equally valid points to be made regarding this relationship, and I hope to explore that to the best of my ability.

Finally, my stance on this whole thing is that it was a fascinating relationship if a bit overdone. It had a lot of complexity to it, and I feel that everything in there was needed so that we as the audience could explore it fully. The mere act of saying this, however, is enough to rile many people up, with some thinking, because I think this relationship is effective and interesting, that this somehow equates it to being morally or ethically correct, so I would like to stress that I obviously would never think that this is a healthy relationship, or a good example of what a relationship should be like in real life. And that's as it should be, I think, because the show doesn't glorify this, it never makes things out to be happy (until the end), and it presents its subject matter with maturity, building around themes and characters far more than fan service and novelty. That said, it is shoved down our throats a bit, and the resolution in Season Seven proves a sticking point for me. Previous drafts of this had me discussing this topic form a single point of view (my own), but as I began getting deeper into it, I found that this just never captured the full extent of what this relationship was about or what it means and implies to the audience and to the rest of the show, so I decided to take a step back and explore several different arguments and views regarding the subject matter.

July 9, 2015

Shadowcon Overviews- Buffy and the Strong Female Character, Part VI

Death, Life, and Buffy as the Strong Female Character


“Give me something to sing about / Please, give me something!”

-Buffy in “Once More, with Feeling”

The time that Buffy does not say no to death is after she has already died. Season Six picks up a few months after the Season Five finale, “The Gift”, in which Buffy sacrifices herself to save the world (thus fulfilling the message that “death is [her] gift,” Her friends, her power source, resurrect her using dark magic in “Bargaining, Part 1”, believing that they are saving her from whatever hell dimension she was in. Unlike other shows that might have run with the idea that the resurrected protagonist was in hell and is now thankful for having a new leash on life, Buffy again turns the tables on the viewer and instead presents Buffy as this broken character, a woman who did not want to be ripped from death.

July 3, 2015

Shadowcon Mini-Views- Inside Out

Spoilers ahead.

So, I just got back from seeing Inside Out, a film that eluded me for some time due to scheduling conflicts, poor time management, oversleeping (yes, really), and so forth. But, I finally saw it, and thankfully, the hype for this didn't disappoint at all! Inside Out is a return to form for Pixar, a studio that has never had an unoriginal idea put to screen, and that has only made three comparatively weak movies, BraveCars 2, and Monsters University.

But Inside Out has possibly the most original and creative idea at its center that I have ever seen, blending as Pixar does so well comedy with seriousness, adventure with morals, and cuteness with heart. It's the ideas of thought and feeling that are explored in this one, how emotions and the fear and/or denial of certain feelings can affect you. It's a complex idea to be sure, and Inside Out explores this in great ways; maybe not to its fullest (as this film is only an hour and a half), but certainly in ways that captivate and excite while also teaching us something about ourselves. The heart of the film is so strong because it's universal: everyone has emotions, everyone has feelings, and everyone has, at one time or another, wanted to shut certain feelings down or have other feelings and emotions and memories come to the fore.

The notion of memory and how that intersects with feelings is also explored here, and the movie takes that concept and just bends the hell out of it in such clever and unique ways. The gags that result from this are hilarious for the most part, and the more important messages that result from this are masterful and important The five dominant feelings, Anger, Fear, Disgust, Sadness, and Joy, are all lovable in their own ways, the former three being used mostly for comic relief, while Joy and Sadness are the two protagonists of the film. All of these feelings essentially control Riley, a happy kid who falls on hard times as her parents have decided to uproot their lives from Minnesota to San Fransisco, causing her to become more and more lonely and sad, fearful and worrisome, whereas before she was super happy and joyful.

The film takes a wholly fresh and enticing slant on this already captivating and unique idea as it speaks to how being happy all the time can sometimes be a bad or harmful thing. Indeed, Joy seems to want to shield Riley from Sadness so as to keep Riley happy, but the ending message is that you need all types of emotions in order to fully live and thrive, and that's a great message to put in here. It also goes another step and tells us that sometimes it's okay to be sad, that that can lead to good things happening along the way.

The Pixar feels are on full display here as the film goes from hilarious to serious to sad back to happy in such a fluid way. It's awesome how Pixar is able to master that, and they've done that here in spades. Bring some tissues to this one, trust me. The gags and laughs are awesome, as I said. Joy and Sadness are sucked out of the main control tower of Riley's head and have to find their way back to it, navigating the recesses of Riley's mind to do so, which leads to some awesome puns and funny moments that are super clever and cute. (I particularly like when they enter the nightmare world of Riley's subconscious and it's filled with broccoli and a loud vacuum cleaner and a clown.) It's a movie with heart obviously but also with just a great exploration of its central idea and an important and vital message to not be afraid of sadness, to not cage it, because sometimes that can be vital to a moment of happiness and brilliance. That kind of a moral doesn't happen very often in movies, and I felt so refreshed to see it presented this way here.

The voice cast is phenomenal! Lewis Black as the voice of Anger is fucking hilarious, and Amy Poehler drives the film along with her vocal talents. The animation is simple but so fun to watch, offering a great contrast between the drab, slightly Pixar-gritty realism of the real world and the bright, almost Dr. Seuss-like wacky fun world of Riley's head. Everything is here to entice the audience and keep even little kids seated throughout. I saw this with a room full of children, obviously, and their laughter at the jokes and small cries when the movie got sad made this all the more engrossing.

I may have seen this one late, but I'm so glad I did. Inside Out lives up to the hype it's received, the critical acclaim that's been thrown upon it, and the overall joy that lights people up when they talk about this movie. I certainly was entertained, but more than that, I was impressed. Impressed because quite frankly, the movie industry has been oddly uninspired and drab of late with the whole superhero craze, and it was so amazing to see something fresh and exciting and just so damn fun and cute for once! Go see this, you'll have a lot of fun!

July 2, 2015

Shadowcon Overviews- Buffy and the Strong Female Character, Part V

The Slayer Role and How Buffy Defies It


“Buffy, when I said you could slay vampires and have a social life, I didn't mean at the same time.”

-Giles to Buffy in “Never Kill a Boy on the First Date”

One of the pieces that make up Buffy’s character is the Slayer role with which she is most associated, though most often she is reluctant to be so. Throughout the show’s first three seasons, she is constantly shown as wanting to be a normal girl despite her title as Slayer preventing her from being so. The Slayer as a role in the show is described as “a woman fighting for more than life. She fights like fighting is her life. It’s like the air she breathes,” one girl in the world chosen by destiny to fight the forces of darkness. When the current Slayer dies, the next is called. As such, being the Slayer and juggling a normal life (and also remaining inherently feminine in the way she is written) is not easy for Buffy. She is told repeatedly throughout the series by those older or better trained than her that she is a fighter and must be nothing more in order to fulfill her destiny, and that she must be alone in order to do so.

June 27, 2015

I SAW HALESTORM LIVE!!!!- Something Awesome II

This is gonna be a bit of a curveball for me as I don't normally talk about music on this blog (except for when I do), but I do just have to get this out of my system because holy shit, tonight was absolutely incredible!

If you don't know, I'm a big Halestorm fan. They're one of the few rock bands that I listen to regularly and have probably the best frontwoman ever, Lzzy Hale, who is absolutely amazing. There's just something about their sound that really clicks with me, the way Lizzy grabs your attention with her no-nonsense voice, how the lyrics of whatever song of theirs you're listening to resonate and actually mean something... it all coalesces into a great experience, and that's just on the CD (or on your phone, if you're like me). But to see them live is a totally different story, as it often is with any band. I don't go to a lot of live stuff, rock concerts I mean. I go to symphonies and classical stuff all the time, but tonight was only my second foray into hard rock live concerts, and so I'm coming at this whole thing from an extremely limited perspective.

I have a bit of hearing loss right now because I foolishly didn't think to wear earplugs, but it doesn't really matter because fucking hell, tonight was an experience that I won't soon forget! Lzzy has great stage presence, and it really feels like she's giving it her all, even on a night like tonight where it was plain to see that the technical side of things was... well, frankly shit, as they had us standing and waiting for an hour after opening the doors while they sorted everything out, and when the band finally did come on (no pre-show acts, thank god), the tech was still a bit finicky. They made the most of it though, and with my eardrums blasted out, it didn't make much difference to me!

The first thing I noted about this experience (besides how crap the venue treated both us and the band), was how down-to-earth the band members were, engaging and interacting with the audience in a way that was more than just a token's sentiment. In fact I'd say that "authentic" is the name of the game when it came to tonight, as Lzzy graciously let her fellow band members each have a turn to shine, and all of the acts lasted more than a minute! Lzzy herself was no slouch either; after a few shaky starts here, she found her stride and totally owned it through and through! Her powerful voice and bitchin' attitude totally carried over to the live stage in a great way too; she just grabbed hold of the audience and didn't ever let go when she was performing! And she's a sick guitarist! Her energy made this night awesome and as soon as she waltzed on stage and started singing, my face just lit up, because here I was seeing her live in concert and like, that's just so cool!!!

While my first live non-classical concert was back in 2012 with Lindsey Stirling, which also luckily had me as a VIP visitor, this one had me up in the second row behind two giant guys who sadly obstructed my view for a good portion of the concert, and that could potentially be a negative, but it honestly didn't bother me a whole lot because there was so much going on just in the atmosphere alone to keep my attention. And while the crowd up in front was a bit rude, videotaping the whole thing instead of actually immersing themselves in the experience, everyone else was laughing and clapping and cheering and singing along in a way that wasn't obnoxious as these things can sometimes seem. It was just a great atmosphere and a pretty good crowd.

The set list was mostly stuff from Halestorm's newest album which I think is their strongest one to date. They've only done three, and like any good band, the keep improving with each release in my opinion. Into the Wild has some awesome tracks, and they thankfully played a good portion of my favorites, including "Dear Daughter", "Apocalyptic", "Sick Individual"- my personal favorite. In total, they played about two thirds of the album, including "Bad Girls World", "Scream", "I am the Fire", and "New Modern Love". They also had an awesome rendition of "Freak Like Me" and "Mz. Hyde", and for an encore they played "Here's to Us", and "I Miss the Misery"! So yeah, a pretty kick-ass set list (and apologies if I'm forgetting anything; it's all a bit of a blur with vivid bits sticking out if that makes sense). While my ears compensated for the loudness of the concert (not helped by those damn technical difficulties), my brain and my inner fan were just in overdrive with how awesome this whole thing was. Lzzy's hard rock attitude was also balanced out by how visibly happy and bubbly she was with the audience too! It never felt like she was trying to be edgy or whatever; her entire performance was genuine and so clear in its agenda of just saying "fuck it" and having a good time!

I went with a good friend of mine which made the experience all the sweeter because he's actually been to several rock concerts, so he kinda knew what was going on and warned me about all the tropes and such beforehand, so thanks buddy! We had quite a lively conversation after the show about how awesome the band was, so that was fun as well. Having a friend with you when you go to one of these things is really the way to go I think; it's like going to the movies with friends, except better because it's FREAKING HALESTORM, MAN!!!!!

Was this concert better than seeing Lindsey live? Well, Lindsey was my first concert, and she really was my first musical idol, so on a sentimental level, I'd say no. And really the two experiences are totally different from each other anyway, so I don't think it's really fair to compare them. However, I will say that there was a lot more going on at this concert than the Lindsey one. Anyway, this whole thing was just a memory-maker for me. It really was something special; seeing Halestorm live has always been a dream of mine ever since I first became a fan, and so naturally this experience was a real win for me! A truly epically fun night was had by all, I think, and this is one that I'll certainly cherish for a good long time!

Pics!!!

As I said, I was behind two giant people who were really tall and obstructed a good portion of my viewing space, but even so I did manage to get a few shots! (No video sadly, as I didn't trust myself to hold the phone up above my head and film without dropping it.)






June 26, 2015

Prime, Kim Possible, Jurassic World, and General Goings On

Hey, all!

Okay, so this post was actually all written up on Tuesday and put in the queue because I'm apparently now even prepackaging my spontaneous write-ups, but I just have to add this little interjection and just offer my sincere congratulations to all the same-sex couples out there in the US, as now marriage equality is legal in every state. I actually woke up pretty late this morning, so everything had pretty much happened already, but there was still quite a bit of buzz on the Facebook and Tumblr of course. And I just think it's so incredible... the legalization of gay marriage everywhere, not the buzz on FB; that's nothing new. This serves as a reminder that an optimistic future might not be as far-fetched as we thought, or as impossible as the cynics would have you believe. Anyway, I just wanted to throw in my recognition of this wonderful news; it seems that the Supreme Court of late has been shot in the arm with a mixture of common sense and optimism, and it's fucking fantastic.

Well, I have four episodes of Transformers Prime left, and then I'll have reviewed the whole show! That's kind of exciting, isn't it? Only took me like five whole years to do it. Anyway, I've been giving some serious thought as to what I could review next or even if I should continue doing that. A number of animated works are under consideration, including Justice League, Madoka Magica, Spectacular Spider-Man, and of course Robots in Disguise, the new 2015 one. I'm sticking strictly to animation right now because it's a fun medium for me and having attempted covering hour-long shows and failing quite miserably at it, I figure I'd better stick to twenty-two minute shows and five-page reviews.

The first two on that list generated a ton of buzz upon their respective releases, so I'm tentative on covering those because so much has been said about both of them already that I honestly don't know if I would have anything new to say. The latter two are also pretty popular (especially Spider- Man), so again, I'm not sure what I have to say on it will be a whole lot different than what other people have stated. Anyway, I'm mulling it over. If you have suggestions on what series you'd like to see, please leave a comment- I always like to include that little invitation even though I know no one ever comments on this stuff; helps keep my imaginary street cred in tact.

There is the other possibility that after finishing up Prime next month (probably) that I simply drop reviews altogether. Statistically speaking, the Reviews category on here is generally one of the lower viewed sections. Mini-Views and Overviews tend to be the heavy-hitters when it comes to view counts, so I don't know. I'm mulling it over. It also doesn't help that Prime is now a good two years out of date, having ended in 2013, and so interest on that has wained quite a bit. And while I'm sure reviews of Justice League or even Spider-Man would do okay, it does seem a bit odd that I'm going back further in time and covering stuff that's already happened. I could do a retrospective personal take on it; I don't know how many people would be interested in that, but that's an option.

Point is, I'm in a bit of a quandary here, so I'm letting you all know what's up and also mostly trying to get this all down on paper just to have it out of my system. That is what blogs are for, no?

Also, I recently found out that Disney has all four seasons of Kim Possible online free to watch on their website, and so I've been just binge watching the hell out of it and it's been just such a joy! I remember watching this as a kid, and as soon as I picked a random episode and it started playing, I instantly got a huge grin on my face as childhood nostalgia swept over me. It's a lot of fun watching old cartoons that you used to watch as a kid! I'm really loving revisiting the old memory lane here. It's kind of amazing how childhood memories and nostalgia can have such a powerful effect on people.

In other news, I saw Jurassic World! I really enjoyed it! I was gonna do a Mini-View on it, but I found that I didn't really have a whole lot to say about the film, so I just let it be. I'm seeing Inside Out tomorrow, though, and I'll definitely have stuff to say about that, so look forward to that! But yeah, Jurassic World, it was alright. I certainly wasn't bored. I did appreciate all the little easter eggs they stuck into the film, and I had just seen the first one again the day before seeing World, so everything was fresh in my memory and I caught a good chunk of homages in the movie.

So yeah, I've got a Mini-View of Inside Out scheduled, plus tomorrow night I'm going to a concert and I'm sure I'll be back here telling all ten of you all about it! The Buffy stuff is doing extremely well! July will consist strictly of that and probably one review of Prime per week, just to give you an idea of what the schedule's gonna be like (I still haven't mapped out when the Prime reviews will fall; I have a class going on, so they might be a bit scattered). Anyway, just wanted to give you all a heads-up on what's up in my very mundane world as of late.

June 25, 2015

Shadowcon Overviews- Buffy and the Strong Female Character, Part IV

The Buffy Solution


"I walk. I talk. I shop. I sneeze. I'm gonna be a fireman when the floods roll back. There's trees in the desert since you moved out, and I don't sleep on a bed of bones.”

-Buffy to the First Slayer in “Restless”

So, where does that leave me in addressing the problem that I have recognized, that of the only criteria one need fulfill to be a “strong female character” are not be a “traditional” female character and also have one’s only trait be that they are good at beating people up? Thus far, I have examined how the “strong female character” is weak, but also how this model might very well be able to work in the right circumstances. The latter treatment of the model is certainly an improvement, do not misunderstand, but I would much prefer a complete reexamining of what the focus and goals of these characters are. McDougall states that she’s heard a number of propositions that intend to help the majority of women characters be recognized as more than “strong”. “What about ‘effective female characters’, for instance? But it is not enough to redefine the term. It won’t do to add maybe a touch more nuance but otherwise carry on more or less as normal.” To do this would be to neglect that spark of humanity that I think every writer wants to put into their character, be they male or female. With our current treatment of female characters and their roles in stories, I think we run the risk of losing the humanity that was attempting to be represented through them.

Goldenberg suggests an actual dualistic approach when looking at gender, pointing out that there is the A category, but that there is also the B category: “we need two subjectives, A and B, instead of only one and its negation, as it is the B category, existing in an A:B gender relationship, that adequately captures the type of category of ‘woman’ that feminists should be working toward constructing.” This solution seems obvious when put in those terms, and indeed it is. Having women have as much agency and character as men, and have them be their own person, is an obvious solution that I believe the “strong female character” in the beginning was trying to strive for. As previously stated, I think that it got lost along the path to this goal, but the goal itself is a worthy one. In succinct answer to the question of how to write a female character right, the answer lies with Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and the titular character with all her foibles and flaws and ups and downs, Buffy Anne Summers.

June 24, 2015

Shadowcon Reviews- Inside Job

Shadowcon Reviews: Transformers Prime Season 2, episode 23, “Inside Job”

Alright, I’m just gonna come out and say this bluntly: I love this episode! Prime has always been solid on the action front; even when episodes are bad, rarely are the visuals poor or the fights not engaging, and this episode has plenty of visual spectacle going on in it. It also helps that the plot of this thing is fairly strait-forward and the pacing is excellent. Simply put, if all the relic episodes had been like this, I honestly wouldn’t have had a problem with them, because there’s not a whole lot of character stuff or intricate plot, the momentum and power of the work is enough to keep me engaged and certainly more than enough to keep me entertained.

June 22, 2015

Shadowcon Reviews- Hard Knocks


Shadowcon Reviews: Transformers Prime Season 2, episode 22, “Hard Knocks”

I’ve mentioned several times before that Season Two is Prime’s weakest season, nad unfortunately this episode only reinforces that statement. I said in my look at “Armada” that that episode might have been the worst episode of the show, but that it wasn’t the most boring. Well, this isn’t the most boring either, but it comes damn close. There are a couple of good moments in here, but really I just can’t get much enjoyment out of this one. It feels very pat. I don’t have much to say about this one, and I really want to look at “Inside Job”, so let’s get right into it.

June 19, 2015

Shadowcon Reviews- Alpha/Omega


Shadowcon Reviews: Transformers Prime Season 2, episode 21, “Alpha/Omega”

“New Recruit” saw the introduction of a new character, Smokescreen, and while the plot of that episode was a bit bland, the character stuff in there was pretty good. Smokescreen is a character who I’ve gone from being indifferent about to being oddly intrigued and charmed by, I think because of his arc throughout Season Three. In this season, he comes off more as just another body to throw at the ‘Cons than anything, but there are a few moments in here where I actually do enjoy his presence on screen. The episode right before this one, “Legacy”, had Arcee reprimand him for putting Jack’s life in danger, and it was good to see his rash actions actually have consequences and be called out by the other members of the team. Far too often in this type of television, everyone will go along with the new character’s stupid or common-sense-defying actions on the grounds that the writers think this kind of thing is cute. It’s not, or if it is, only to the most low-brow kids. I tell ya, I was infuriated as a child whenever a character did something like that, and to think that kids will be entertained by this type of thing is selling your target audience short. So, I’m very happy that Prime decided to own up and admit that, yeah, maybe Smokescreen was acting like a bit of a dick. This episode sees Smokescreen move more into a supporting role as we now have his character firmly established in the series, and that makes for a surprisingly unwelcome change back to what we had before he arrived, which is more relic-hunting and more plot exposition.

June 18, 2015

Shadowcon Overviews- Buffy and the Strong Female Character, Part III

Is the “Strong Female Character” Inherently Bad?


“Starfleet captains don’t easily succumb to fear.”

-Captain Kathryn Janeway in “The Thaw”

The “strong female character” in principle is not a poor idea. The problem merely lies in how this is being handled in practice. Indeed, many people use the phrase “strong female character” to define many well-rounded, engaging, three-dimensional women characters, so it is not as if the phrase itself is in poor taste. Buffy has been labeled as this too, so to the public eye, this label is seen as endearing. I will admit that the label used in this way to address characters as complex as Buffy is problematic for me, because it means that the label is able to branch out and cover more superiorly written women characters than those presented above, and I think this threatens to clump them in with their poorly written sisters, and serves to make the poorly written women characters the mascots for the entire group. There are plenty of counterarguments to my claims made above, however, and my goal with this section is to address them to the best of my ability.

Arguments against my understanding of the “strong female character” up until now boil down to the following statement: Your argument and understanding of such a model precludes the very real idea that women do feel empowered by these women on television and film that you have criticized, that these characters are sometimes considered role models for women and that female audience members might find a woman punching a man in the face to be exciting and satisfying because that is something that most if not all women at one time or another have wanted to do. Maybe these “strong female characters” and their obviousness are needed to push against an equally obvious− and indeed far more developed− trend of having women there for male consumption. Other arguments assert that I am arguing a similar point to what self-proclaimed “equalists”­­­− a group I absolutely despise− say in the face of feminism, in that I am erasing woman empowerment by suggesting that writers focus on character first and gender second, as though representation should, according to some interpretations of my argument, be seen as something that we are past and do not need to address.  I will address these concerns after first analyzing some specific counterarguments with regards to the examples I have already discussed. Here, I will try to address criticism of my reading of Black Widow; I will also tackle the other women characters of Voyager, focusing on Janeway for the majority but also touching on Torres and Kes; and I will examine Peggy Carter under the lens of her own show.

June 17, 2015

Shadowcon Reviews- New Recruit

Shadowcon Reviews: Transformers Prime Season 2, episode 18, “New Recruit”

“New Recruit” is an episode of introduction and one of slight transition. This comes right before “The Human Factor”, just to give you some idea of where we are in the series, and it introduces us to Smokescreen, who I’ll talk more about as we get further into the episode. This also features one of the dumbest secondary plots that this series has ever done, indicative of the T-Arc, but without the drive that made a few of those episodes work. This episode will lead us into another scavenger hunt, actually, but for now, let’s just jump in and see what’s what.

June 15, 2015

Shadowcon Reviews- Armada


Shadowcon Reviews: Transformers Prime Season 2, episode 8, “Armada”

Oh boy.

This is the worst episode of Transformers Prime.

I’ve been putting off reviewing this ever since it first aired, knowing as soon as it was over that I’d need to re-watch and review it. I actually haven’t seen this one since it aired, which should tell you how much I either despise it, or at the least suggest that I forgot that it happened (which is also probably just as accurate). While it’s definitely not the most boring, this one has several problems that drag it down and make it just a dull ride all the way through. And the real stinger here (for me, at least) is that this is essentially a microcosm of Season Two’s problems: poor follow-up to established plot points, the substitution of action over character at the least appropriate times, a script that is overstuffed but lacking any meat to it, and ret-cons across the board that make previous episodes’ content worse or at the least now out of place. It’s an impressive clusterfuck of ideas that go nowhere, and that is such a shock because the writing credit for this episode goes to none other than Matt Wayne, someone who churned out some pretty memorable Justice League Unlimited episodes (memorable in the good way, obviously); and from what I’ve heard, his run on the comics of the same name was very well received. So where did he go wrong here? I have no idea. It’s not as if the director’s to blame for this; Vinton Heuck is a series regular in the director’s chair for Prime.

I’ve tried searching for background info on this episode with minimal success. There’s no commentary for it, no interviews with either Heuck or Wayne on the subject, so I don’t know really why things went so bad as they did here. When I realized I only had a handful of Prime episodes left to review, I specifically put this one in the middle of the pack for June just so that I had other stuff to come after it, y’know, so that I didn’t end my look at the series on a bad note. (Then again, we do still have “Patch” to get through, so no promises there.) Let’s get started, I guess; can’t put this off any longer.

June 12, 2015

Shadowcon Reviews- The Human Factor


Shadowcon Reviews: Transformers Prime Season 2, episode 19, “The Human Factor”

Transformers Prime gets a lot of hate, not all of it undeserved. People point out that it never seemed to give good payoffs to its setup, that it had weak or “safe” character development, that it was trite, or that it was repetitious. Those are all valid and debatable points. I certainly can at least meet the critics half way regarding the first point, especially considering that the episode we’re covering today is in the latter half of Season Two. Personally, I quite enjoyed the character development on the show for the most part; sure, by the end of Season Three it was more about plot than character, but there were definitely some good nuggets of good in there too. Regarding the third point, again, I have to say that I agree somewhat with those who say that this show was repetitious. All of these points are important for today’s episode, because while not as bad as “Armada”- an episode that I am so dreading to cover, you have no idea- this serves as a fairly weak payoff to MECH’s story; it definitely offers little in the way of Silas’ character development, preferring to put much of the attention on Bulkhead instead; and it revisits what “Nemesis Prime” tried to do, which was make to MECH a credible threat to the Autobots, however, this one has a more interesting premise if a less than satisfying implementation of that premise.

June 11, 2015

Shadowcon Overviews- Buffy and the Strong Female Character, Part II

The Strong Female Character Model


“You’re a big man in a suit of armor. Take that away, what are you?”

“Genius, billionaire playboy, philanthropist.”

-Steve Rogers and Tony Stark in The Avengers

So, in a total coincidence, I came across this news from Variety yesterday about how Buffy the Vampire Slayer will be re-broadcast on the air thanks to ABC picking it up. I shit you not, this project was not planned by me to coincide with that... but damn, if I had any doubt fortune was smiling on me, this has wiped that doubt away!

Daniel Swensen, author of science-fiction novel Burn and regular blogger, says of writing female characters that the stereotype of being scantily clad and badass seems to “reinforce the idea that ‘violence=strength’. Not that I mind ass-kicking characters, but groin-punching is a behavior, not a personality trait.” This is exactly what so many writers do when they want to write a female character and make her relevant to the story: they take a man’s character and transplant their traits onto a woman’s body. Many science fiction shows follow precisely the line that female characters are breaking out of traditional roles by being “strong”, and worse yet, equating that with being “masculine.” In fact, Maya J. Goldenberg says in her article, from the pages of Journal of Gender Studies in 2007, that society “[fails] to take seriously women’s interests, identities, and issues, as well as failing to recognize women’s ways of being, thinking and doing as being equally valuable as those of men.” She also outlines in her paper the idea of the “A/not A” categories, that everything is based around A, and anything not resembling A is seen through the lens of A as not being A. Also note that “feminine” is included in the traits that carry with them a connotation of being bereft of power, so that femaleness is ingrained in society as also being without power or influence.

It seems apparent to me that to be a “strong female character” in a typical “progressive” show, one need only not be a stereotypical woman. A traditional female character on television will be “weak, feminine, irrational, immature, uncultured.” She is without agency, submissive, passive, graceful, self-critical, and materialistic. In most cases, the traditional female character is defined by these qualities, possessing no personhood to speak of, and thus her character comes off as less of a person and more so as a representation of traits and characteristics. becoming a symbol for the weaknesses of women. Goldenberg notes that “gender essentialism is the thesis that there is some property (or properties) necessary to me being a woman and definitive of a generic category of ‘woman’,” and by default extension implies, based on societal implementation and observation, that those properties are in accordance with how women are viewed through the lens of men, that women are seen as “not A” because they aren’t men. The “A/not A” dichotomy persists with the typical female stereotype, but also and especially when the “strong female character” comes into play.

A “strong female character” would be a character who shuns all of the traits of womanhood that are often seen as stereotypical of women on television, and so a female character who is attempting to be progressive is distancing herself from these traits. A typical example of this in science fiction is a badass, knife or gun-wielding, crop top acrobat with a thing for leather outfits. Sherrie A. Inness outlines in her introduction to Tough Girls: Women Warriors and Wonder Women in Popular Culture the four core traits of what she calls “Tough Women” or what I identify as the “strong female character”: “body, attitude, action, and authority,” and her elaborations on each criterion fit into what I have outlined as well: the weapons, body type, and clothing are all geared toward moving away from femininity while also keeping the traits that fit nicely under the male gaze.

Examples of the “strong female character” model in science fiction range from The Avengers’ gun-wielding sexy acrobatic Black Widow, to cyborg logical no-emotions Seven of Nine in Star Trek Voyager, who also occasionally uses guns, to the all-guns, no-nonsense Ripley in the Alien franchise. (Evidently, women using guns is a sign of strength and sexiness in the action movie genre.) All three of these women are classified as “strong” by the majority of their fans, and while they certainly do contain aspects of woman empowerment, particularly Ripley, their characters are simply nothing more than archetypes, and are certainly nothing more than “strong", and I will be taking a look at each of them in turn with this section. To quote G.D. Anderson on his tumblr page in a response he gave about feminism and male leads, “feminism isn’t about making women stronger. Women are already strong. It’s about changing the way the world perceives that strength,” and that is what Buffy is able to understand whereas the “strong female character” is not.

June 10, 2015

Shadowcon Reviews- Nemesis Prime



Shadowcon Reviews: Transformers Prime Season 2, episode 8, “Nemesis Prime”

We continue our look at the MECH arc that I actually started with my first Prime review ever and then promptly forgot about- I ditched it to cover Arcee’s episodes in Season One. But here we are, four years later and I’m back to it with “Nemesis Prime”, one of only two episodes this season to be about MECH specifically, and is certainly an enjoyable outing. What really helps this episode is the pace, as it starts off with Agent Fowler leaving his military base and getting chased down by what appears to be Optimus Prime in vehicle mode.

June 8, 2015

Shadowcon Reviews- Operation: Breakdown


Shadowcon Reviews: Transformers Prime Season 1, episode 16, “Operation: Breakdown”

Alright, so I’m finally going to be taking a look at the incredibly loose MECH arc that runs throughout the first two seasons of the show, and we begin with this episode, coming right before “Crisscross” to give you a time frame. This is the second appearance for the human villains, offering up our first real look at how they operate when not in the field. Let’s jump in and see how things play out.

June 4, 2015

Shadowcon Overviews- Buffy and the Strong Female Character, Part I


Introduction


The first time I watched Buffy the Vampire Slayer, I did not love it. I liked it a lot, but compared to shows I had seen before it, I was admittedly underwhelmed. I was introduced to the Whedonverse- the catchall term for the various Joss Whedon-created television and film projects- in 2009 when I sat down with my mom and watched Firefly. I was a teenager then, and that show made such an impact on me that for a long time I did in fact consider it to be my favorite television show I had ever seen, even after having watched Buffy. Firefly had a consistently tight focus, smart and witty writing, intriguing mysteries and hints of darker times to come, bolstered by an ever-present undercurrent of philosophical and religious subtext that made the show full to bursting with theme and motifs- the tight focus of all of this helped, ironically, by the fact that the show was cancelled after only thirteen episodes, with an impromptu film being drawn up after Fox decided to rein in their vendetta to seek out good television everywhere and grind it beneath their heal, providing Joss Whedon the chance to give some closure to his masterpiece. After watching Firefly, I think I was expecting something equally special with Buffy, not just in terms of good writing, but in terms of feeling: atmosphere, tension, camaraderie amongst the crew, a sense of on-the-fringes adventure.

June 1, 2015

Arcee Mayhem IV


Here's chapter four of the Arcee Mayhem story that I actually ended a whopping two years ago! This story is also published on FanFiction.net if you want to favorite it over there!

May 29, 2015

Shadowcon Reviews- Shadowzone


You're really not winning any favors this episode, Arcee (and nor are you, Miko!)

Shadowcon Reviews: Transformers Prime Season 1, episode 15, “Shadowzone”

I realize now that I’m actually covering this that it would’ve been smarter had I done this directly after doing “Out of His Head”, since some of this ties directly back into that story. Also, all of this month’s episodes would have probably made more sense coming before my discussion of the finale to the series, but whatever; this is my site where I’m late almost all the time and lazy the rest of the time. “Shadowzone” is a very flawed episode, which is probably why I’ve put off reviewing it until now. It’s just not that entertaining, and the parts that are entertaining are few and far between. This is a kid’s-focused episode with enough technobabble that makes no sense to give Star Trek Voyager a run for its money, interrupted by the occasional funny scene. It’s harmless, really, but it’s also pretty boring. There’s not a whole lot to talk about with this episode in terms of character, so brace yourself for a good helping of summery with this review (sorry).

May 27, 2015

Shadowcon Reviews: Stronger, Faster


Shadowcon Reviews: Transformers Prime Season 1, episode 22, “Stronger, Faster”

When I mapped out which episodes I was going to do for this month, the objective was to focus on pairs of episodes that explored characters that were otherwise rather weak. Bumblebee, for example, is usually the most expendable Autobot with the least developed personality. But “Sick Mind” and “Out of His Head” attempted to explore his character, and in so doing, also developed his rivalry with Megatron a little bit that would wind up being crucial at the end of the show. I did not, however, plan on all of these episodes with the exception of “Deus Ex Machina” being about the Autobots losing their minds in one form or another. That actually hit me as I was watching this one, that every episode focused on an Autobot at his most vulnerable or in a weakened state. So I guess you could call the another theme of the month “mind-screw”, because that’s pretty much what happens to all the ‘bots this time around. And now, it’s Ratchet’s turn. I’ve been giving Ratchet some crap over the course of the month, but that’s in spite of Jeffery Comb’s acting ability that really needs no introduction. The man knows how to make serious characters, who might be wooden in other hands, come to life. Here, he gets to test and play with that significantly, and that’s great to see. Also, many of Ratchet’s actions and his reasoning behind them will become clear with this episode, which is good- Ratchet being a bit of a tool was another theme of this month that I swear was not intentional.

Shadowcon Reviews: T.M.I.


Shadowcon Reviews: Transformers Prime Season 1, episode 21, “T.M.I.”

Apologies for not having this review up on Monday; stuff got in the way, and also I really think summer vacation is getting to me! Anyway, to make up for that, you get two reviews today, and to start, we’re finishing off our look at Bulkhead and Miko with this episode, and thankfully it fairs far better than their last outing. “T.M.I.” builds on the rather unfortunately conveyed point about how Bulkhead is not too bright from “Deus Ex Machina”, although here at least it doesn’t make an unintended jab at construction workers everywhere. What’s more, this one is far more of a character piece; while the plot is thin and the action sparse, what makes this episode work is how it hinges on the relationship between Miko and Bulkhead, especially focusing on Miko’s side of that.

May 22, 2015

Shadowcon Reviews: Deus Ex Machina


Mom, imagine getting this kind of massage!

Shadowcon Reviews: Transformers Prime Season 1, episode 10, “Deus Ex Machina”

This episode… If someone were to capture what made Prime weak in the first season, I’d have to assume they’d turn to this episode first and foremost. This episode might as well be called “Minor Incompetence” because it seems like everyone in this story is really unsure of what’s actually going on and how to properly behave. This also focuses on Bulkhead and Miko, but it doesn’t give us any insight into either character, focusing on them for plot reasons and little else. This serves as a Bulkhead/Miko story, and while I like Miko a lot, that mostly comes from Season Three and some of the later episodes in Season Two, so this one, coming in the very early days of Season One, really grates on me as her character’s more annoying traits are made apparent especially in the beginning. Nicole Dubac, the woman who wrote this episode was really off her game this week, because she normally delivers some pretty solid scripts- she actually did Wednesday’s “Out of His Head”, so she does good stuff, or at least entertaining material. But this is just kind of sad. I really have to wonder if this didn’t get an un-credited rewrite after she drafted it, because a lot of this doesn’t feel like her script. It feels more like bits and pieces of a good script jumbled up with dead air. Let’s jump in and see if we can’t find out why that is.

May 20, 2015

Shadowcon Reviews- Out of His Head


A plan so epic, not even the mighty Stan Lee could have conceived it!

Shadowcon Reviews: Transformers Prime Season 1, episode 14, “Out of His Head”

This episode picks up shortly after the last episode, with Optimus getting a checkup by Ratchet, and yes, Megatron running around in Bumblebee’s head too. It’s actually a pretty freaky image, with Megatron’s head just kinda floating there surrounded by black emptiness. He makes his objective clear:

“I must reclaim my body, which means taking complete and total control of yours!”

Bumblebee’s character is the weakest out of the bunch, and especially here in the middle of Season One, he’s pretty bland. Because he can’t speak, we don’t really get to delve into his personality a whole lot beyond the basics: like, we can tell when he’s angry, sad, surprised- and make no mistake, the animators did a fantastic job having his face and body emote all of that- but in terms of character development, there’s not a whole lot to him. He’s the kid-appeal character, so it seems odd to me that he’s the one devoid of a voice; you’d think that a kid’s show would want their kid-friendly character to be able to be, y’know, relatable in some way. And I guess Raf could stand in for that, but given what we find out in this episode, I’m not too sure that holds up to scrutiny.

May 18, 2015

Shadowcon Reviews- Sick Mind


Shadowcon Reviews: Transformers Prime Season 1, episode 13, “Sick Mind”

We’re running out of episodes to do! I actually picked this two-parter because I think it ties in nicely with what happened in “Deadlock”, y’know, the whole Bumblebee-killed-Megatron thing. That loose thread of character arc has its roots here, though more so in the next episode. I kinda like that I get to revisit Season One, too. This episode comes right in the middle of the season; Megatron’s been offline for a whopping eight whole episodes, Starscream is still in his early badass mode, and Optimus still has his old body that is awesome.