May 12, 2016

Sophomore Year Complete

Man, I'm halfway done with college already! What the hell?!

This is an extremely rambling, non-cohesive post.

Alright, so I'm now two days returned home, and I gotta say it feels pretty great! Got done with finals last week and headed on a three-day road trip back to Albuquerque.

Now, I'm catching up on Person of Interest which just started its final season last Tuesday (and we have two a week now, yay!!) and delving into major revisions/rewrites/restructuring of my book in preparation for a writers conference I'm going to at the end of July! Very excited about that!

Sophomore year was insane! Awesome, but insane! Also, very busy. I learned so much and had some of the most amazing classes ever this year, met probably the greatest professor at my college who is now unofficially my WGS advisor (!), and got to experience a host of academic stuff outside of the classroom! I went to Lewis&Clark and presented a paper for their Gender Studies conference; I got published in Watcher Junior; I submitted some of my writing to various journals and papers, none of which I've heard back from, but that's okay because, having never submitted anything before, I feel that this is an accomplishment all its own. I also tried my hand at writing for The Odyssey, an online informal magazine. It was an okay experience; I quit because the current management is not to my taste. I got to write some awesome stuff and learned how to write things quickly and for a relatively tight turn-around time. You may check out my articles here!

My classes last semester included my last math class ever (probably not, but it's the last one for my undergrad experience thank god); astronomy, where I had just an amazing learning experience much more than I thought I would; close reading; and the return of Latin, which I excelled at last semester because it was Latin I and I remembered a surprising amount of stuff. Seriously though, astronomy was just the greatest thing because the professor was just fully engaged and excited about the material and that can really impact a course. Or in the case of my math class, it can so hamper the course that there ended up being no structure to it and I was bored for a good 95% of the class.

But spring semester was where things really picked up. I had two classes with the aforementioned greatest professor ever: Literary Theory, and Feminist Theory. Both were amazing on their own, but taking them together provided me with so much cross-pollination possibilities. Lit Theory opened up a world of interesting conversation about language, history, different philosophies, and so forth; Fem Theory had us examine the nuances of feminism, the history of it, how different lenses operated within the movement, how there are really multiple theories going on and not all of them agree and that's okay, just all this stuff that I kinda knew but didn't have the language or wherewithal to adequately articulate it. Now I do and the subject of gender studies only became more interesting and multi-layered as I progressed through the course!

In addition to those two courses, I also had second semester Latin which kicked my ass so hard I honestly don't know if I didn't fail it or not (probably didn't, but damn if I don't deserve to, holy shit). Seriously, this semester was a totally different animal than last semester. More complicated grammar, more vocab, a host of ways in Latin to express purpose... it was a lot of stuff. That coupled with me literally doing six hours of reading on Mondays in the library for Lit and Fem Theory after a full day of classes (that's not an exaggeration), Latin was a chore. But, I did make it through it (hopefully; grades have yet to be posted), so that's something I guess.

I also took British Literature: Fantasy, a course that I ended up loving more than I thought I would given the beginning days of the class. The professor was again fully engaged and excited by the material, and while the first couple of weeks were kinda boring, it picked up and by the end I was really enjoying myself! We read a lot of King Arthur stuff, some of Tolkien's Silmarillion, a bit of Neil Gaiman, and a host of short stories on faeries and giants and all that good stuff. It was an engaging course, kind of a lighter class which was good because it provided balance next to the juggernauts of the other classes.

It was a great year academically, I think! This was definitely the year where I soaked in as much knowledge as I could and really cared about the topics discussed. Fem Theory and Lit Theory especially, just aaaahhhhh!!!! So good, y'know!!

On the more personal end of things, I've come to realize over the course of this year that I am a biromantic asexual person. I haven't really formally announced that to many people, so I guess this is where I'm doing that? I don't know. But it kinda feels nice y'know to say that to people, even if it is just in a blog post that a handful are going to glance at. I bring this up more so because I've tried to make more a splash with regards to asexual visibility in the LGBTQIA "community," to give it more of a voice and to just advocate for common sense and treating people... y'know, like people. Anyway, this was a point of self-discovery for me and I think it was a very important one because it influenced my writing and how I filtered a lot of the readings in Fem Theory through an asexual lens. Like most people who pick labels, I'm pretty flexible in how I relate to the two I relate to, and indeed the labels themselves are malleable and versatile which is nice. Recognizing this part of my identity has also allowed me to engage in some riveting conversations on Twitter about representation, tokenization, internalized phobias, and so forth. I find asexuality interesting to learn about from an academic standpoint too, not dissociating myself from the label, but just looking at the history of it and learning more about what it means to different people. It's nice to learn about it and to recognize that other people experience it and that their voices and my voice matter.

Finally, just wanted to say thank you for those who continue to read my postings and check out the blog! I know I've been incredibly non-active and I apologies for that. However, I do hope to write more thoughts on movies this summer and stuff like that! I had an amazing sophomore year and can't really believe that it's over or that I'm now half way through my college experience. That's insane!

May 5, 2016

Captain America: Civil War- Shadowcon Mini-Views

This review is SPOILER FREE

With twelve films under their belt, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has undoubtedly taken the film world by storm, influencing everything from storytelling structure to branding to rethinking entire business practices. In terms of quality of storytelling, personally I’d say about half of the Marvel films have been good; rarely are they amazing beyond novelty, and sometimes they’re just bad films, however much the Marvel fanboy in me hates to admit it.

I’m happy to say, however, that “Captain America: Civil War” is one of the greats, up there with the previous super soldier film in the franchise, “The Winter Soldier,” as being one my favorites. Directed by the Russo brothers, Anthony and Joe, the film boasts now-classic and expectant Marvel action and humor, but also a surprisingly meaty through-line about security, trust, casualties, and “for the greater good” operations. Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) and Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) express different points of view regarding how the Avengers as a unit should operate, catalyzed by the UN’s desire to have the team put under government supervision so as to theoretically stop all the destruction the Avengers cause in their attempts to help people. I liked this debate a lot, for sure, but more than that, I liked how both men had personal connections and reasons for believing what they did: Stark not wanting to see more people hurt, and having to deal with the personal guilt of having to look a mother in the eye as she tells him the his heroics killed her son; Rogers not wanting the government, with its politics and pencil-pushing, interfering with not only how he operates but also deciding who lives and who dies and having that be based more on political action than on saving as many lives as possible. This debate and the words said between these two drives a good chunk of the story, and it was great to see that happen.

A civil war of ideologies breaks out, with various other heroes taking sides, and all the action is sublime, effective in its mission to entertain, and just a ball all around, with all of these different personalities coming into conflict while still understanding that what they’re doing—throwing trucks at each other and being webbed up by Spider-Man—is kind of insane. There are a great many thrills to be had in this film, but unlike other superhero films, the action does not compromise the story, always being at the service of the plot or characters; its indulgence does not become self-indulgence, and that is a good thing.

As a sequel to “Winter Soldier,” I think “Civil War” is a decent follow-up. Because of the nature of the film’s need to be both a sequel to the Captain America and the Avengers films, I think it balances its two tasks as well as can be expected. The Bucky/Steve relationship I’ve never found particularly groundbreaking or interesting, honestly, but the writers try their best to infuse Bucky with some character this time around, making him a victim of other people and foregrounding that aspect of him in the film. This victimization and use as a tool for a corrupt government again feeds into the different ideologies at play, a literal representation of what Steve is afraid could happen to the Avengers, though obviously not on a literal scale, and it bridges the two roles that this film must serve quite well.

“Civil War” also serves as a meta-text for the broader state of superhero films, I think. The desire by big governments, Tony Stark, and Steve Rogers too, to not cause so much destruction and civilian casualties with their superheroics could be considered a commentary on the state of the superhero film craze that has taken Hollywood by storm: there is more to superhero movies than just action, and to rely on action at the expense of a good story sells the audience short and, in-universe, perhaps does more harm than good to the very people superheroes are attempting to save.