Becoming Something Else

It’s kind of hard to believe that eight years ago I wrote this:

“I liked Arrow” 

It’s even harder to believe that eight years ago a show that was barely based on a comic book character, took great pains to be deeply grounded and playing by the rules of more conventional genre TV tropes, ended with a co lead getting a Green Lantern ring, after the funeral of it’s main character which was attended by several time travelers, including his own daughter, and two other superheroes.

Arrow birthed a universe, and it wasn’t always worthy of the shows that came after it, but it was always, always itself and partly that’s because it had a beating heart in Oliver Queen, and particularly Stephen Ammell as Oliver Queen.

The final episode of Arrow does a lot of things that I love, Felicity has a brief chat with her grown up daughter, and with Barry Allen and Kara Danvers. In his final act of rebuilding the world, Oliver brought back Moira, Tommy and Quentin. Tommy connects with Not-Laurel. The Al-Ghul sisters also showed up to the funeral and Sara and Nyssa got their reunion moment of closure. (I now fear for Ava.) Dinah is headed to the future to fight evil with Not-Laurel and Mia, Thea and Roy (YAY ROY!) got back together, Rene is elected mayor, and oh, right….

DIGG FINDS A GREEN LANTERN RING.

It’s not until the final moment that I got what I’ve spent maybe six seasons saying I wanted. (It’s not just me, it’s a lot of the fandom) Digg got a Green Lantern ring. Looks like our John is headed to HBO Max. And if he isn’t WE WILL HAVE WORDS Mr. Guggenheim. He also did the Salmon Ladder. The finale was very good for John Diggle.

I watched the pilot right after, which was fun, mostly because, BABIES! But also because I wanted to remember that I was kind of all in on this show from minute one, and watching it now, with everything that it’s built, the pilot is even more exciting and interesting.

Anyway, tonight we get the final episode of The Good Place, which means I’ll cry a whole lot and write about it.

Sparring

Quick reminder to Annalise: Not everything is about her. (Always important for a chosen one to remember)

The Marina Chronicle

I was sparring with Athena that afternoon, normally we bantered and chatted during this time but today I was just frustrated with her. I had a feeling she had more to do with Tristan’s decision than he’d said.

This plan reeked of Aaron and Olivia. It was too practical by half, solved about ten problems at once, gets Tristan out of Eric and any other suitors way, reunifies the crown with the Merchant Guilds, gives Tristan a place if he chooses to leave the guard (or stays, frankly, a woman from Dorin probably wants to stay there and I need a northern commander), solidifies Pantona’s power in the economy, but they wouldn’t have thought of it themselves, just figured out the details. I was so hurt by all of them.

Athena takes advantage of my distraction to knock me off my feet.

“Yield?” She grins. I smile.

“Yield,” I said…

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“What’s Next?”

The West Wing is my favorite television show ever.

I like a lot of TV. I love a lot of TV. The West Wing is more than that to me. It has some of my favorite writing of any medium and most certainly of any television.

Why are we talking about the show today? Because today is the last time that The West Wing Weekly a podcast where Hrishikesh Hirway and Joshua Malina (who was on the show y’all!) rewatched (or in the case of the last three seasons for Hrishi watched for the first time!) this wonderful seven seasons of television.

I have been constantly rewatching The West Wing pretty much since the show began, it used to run in four hour blocks on Bravo, and my roommate Jen had the DVDs, and then streaming entered my life, so you know there’s that. But watching it in community, and at the same pace even as some of the people in my real life was really, really fun. I also, like Hrishi, rarely revisited the post Sorkin years, which are better than I remembered.

But now I’m going to miss The West Wing Weekly, I’m going to miss hearing the inside stories, the good natured rivalry between Malina and Bradley Whitford, the beautiful memories of the dearly departed John Spencer, and all the weird little phrases that have entered my lexicon because of it over the past four years. Flentls and “Attonerys General” and “That’s President *Insert Noun Here*”

The West Wing of course is not going anywhere in my life. I knew it would be leaving Netflix, with NBC and Warner Brothers both getting their own streaming services going, and wheather I was getting Peackock or HBO Max was going to depend entirely on which one was getting The West Wing. It’s HBO Max, which means I will be watching Green Lantern Corp and probably won’t be watching The Adventure Zone (until it’s all up and I can binge during a free trial that is.)

Arrow also ended last night but my antenna wouldn’t pick up The CW so we’ll talk about that tomorrow. OK? For now I’m saying good bye to a podcast about a TV show, because pop culture is really just a snake eating it’s tail at this point in my life. Also I realize that The Good Place finale is on Thursday. There’s a lot going on.

“What’s Next?”

Magical Movie Tour: Dumbo

I wasn’t sure what my thoughts were going to be with Dumbo again, I had some impressionistic memories of it, “Pink Elephants On Parade” and “Baby Mine,” and in my obsession of the past few years, learned that Walt was never happy with the movie, but was also low on budget.

There’s also been some woke internet discourse regarding the crows as black stereotypes, which is what I thought I would be discussing in this essay.

Now don’t get me wrong, the crows aren’t good, and “I be seen bout everything,” is not coherent even for minstrel slang. (It would be like an older white man now making a black or black coded character finish ever word with “nizzle” now.) But mostly I was so underwhelmed by the movie, especially after the true masterpiece that is Fantasia, Dumbo is a shattering fall to Earth. The animation isn’t crisp, the film is short and cuts in strange places, the music is uninspired, what little dialog there is in clunky and does little for the story, which is also pretty thin, but at least in a charming way.

Honestly, I just sat baffled. Although in addition to being uninspired, clunky and kinda racist, at least Dumbo is short. At just over 63 minutes the movie was over before I could really process how little it did for me. This is also why it’s probably a favorite for little kids, it’s quick, kind of fun, and over before they can antsy.

It also inspired a damn good theme park ride, so yay?

Next week we’re doing Bambi, don’t worry I have tissues.

She Used To Be Mine

Last night I was curled up on the couch reading Maybe You Should See Someone by Lori Gotlieb (I’m not going to review the book, but OMG READ IT! So good!) eating a salad and I got caught up on my podcasts for the week.

I had a few thoughts, I could get myself set up with CBS All Access and watch Picard something I’d been looking forward to all week. Or I could throw some music on, and hold to my, “trying to watch less TV” plan which I’d failed miserably at this week. (I watched so much TNG in prep!) So instead I flipped on my phone to music and scanned, looking for a radio station or playlist.

And then I remembered I hadn’t listened to Kristin Chenoweth’s For The Girls an album she released in the summer. (I had listened to the duet version of “I Will Always Love You” with Dolly Parton from the album, because HELLO????) I searched her name and clicked it on. The book is about therapy and the ways we change and don’t. And I realized while a lot of writers I know did big “Decade Wrap Ups” and I didn’t.

At the time I didn’t have the bandwith but then I started thinking about the girl I was in 2010, and the woman I am now. I’m proud of who I am and the life I’ve built, but there are days when I miss her. The girl who never could have waited six months to listen to an album where her favorite soprano sings songs written by women.  Who would have talked about what the decade behind had meant to her.

But then I remembered how afraid she was. Of everything. Of her talent and ideas and interests, her body, her sexuality, her illness.

And then I’m so grateful for the past ten years. For finishing school and my time in Brooklyn and Tom Foolery and The Plaza and Comic Con and The Desk Jobs and Disney World and Marina and Montclair and Therapy and Meds and Yoga. And I’m grateful to myself, for realizing who I am rules. That I’m fun, that saying “I’m not feeling up to it” will not make the people I care about abandon me or hate me, that I can bond with people even when our superficial stuff isn’t the same. That you can outgrow people while still wishing them well, while others will grow with you and both things are beautiful and normal.

I also want to hug that girl, I want to tell her it isn’t going to look how she thinks but it’s still going to be wonderful. That she won’t have the wedding, house or kids she wanted (yet) but she’ll have dancing until dawn with the people she loves and a space that’s just hers and a wall full of smiling snapshots.

It’s been a nice ten years, is my point, and I’m happy to have grown up.

Fangirl Loves Star Wars: Poe Dameron (Comics) by Charles Soule, Phil Noto & Angel Unzueta

Um, I don’t know if you know this or not, readers, but I really am fond of the character Poe Dameron.

That might be an understatement…

What’s the word for a character who’s life story you’ve dived into, who you’ve written tons of secret fanfiction about, who you’ve spend hundreds of dollars to create cosplay for, and who’s actor you’ve decided you must watch his entire filmography?

OH! Is the word, obsessed? Yes, I think that’s the word.

Never forget the tagline of this blog is “Saving The World One Obsession At A Time!”

And while my obsessions wax and wane and sometimes go away entirely. (I no longer feel the need to purchase every Billy Joel album, for example! And I never even got The Nylon Curtain or Cold Spring Harbor.) But ever since that night watching The Force Awakens five years ago, Poe Dameron and by extension Oscar Isaac’s have been pretty steady.

Poe Dameron the Comic series was written by Charles Soule who is very good at writing comics. (READ SHE-HULK! He made her comic into a David E. Kelley show and it was great and perfect) He was also very nice to me once at ACBC, so you know, there’s that.

Poe Dameron covers the time before and between movies. First we get the lead up to The Force Awakens where he is trying to find Lor San Tekka (Remember how Kylo Ren killed Max Von Sydow? That guy) because Leia said so.

Seriously, one of the best things about Poe, which is preserved here is that when Leia says jump, his answer is, “How high? Also can I do a barrel roll?” Anyway, our self proclaimed best pilot in the galaxy is not alone, he’s got a great group of friends in his Black Squadron. Snap Wexley (there’s a moment where Snap’s childhood droid friend, Mr. Bones from Aftermath makes a comeback and I said, “Oooh YAY!”),  Jessika Pava, Kare Kun and Suralinda Jones. They’re a good team, and also Snap and Kare are in love and great and now I am even more sad about how Snap died. (This is not even getting into the great tragedy of him being shot down right before his step dad Wedge Antilles showed up on Exagol. My friend Jess warned me of this, but it is ROUGH y’all.) There’s also a bunch of stuff about C-3P0’s spy network, which is BADASS, and BB-8 rolling around being the best.

The art is good. There’s something a little off putting about photo realistic art of characters who’s actors I know well, but the likenesses are quite good, and once I was used to it it got easier.

But mostly it’s a lot of piloting and character building which is cool. It makes Poe’s disposition in The Rise Of Skywalker make a lot more sense. He’s given up everything for this fight, he’s lost friends and he’s kind of done.

Anyway, I’m glad to have picked up this one. Our next visit to a galaxy far far away will be the novel Bloodline. First I’m going to be hanging out where no one has gone before…because y’all Picard starts tomorrow! New Clone Wars not far behind btw. Lot going on at the moment.

 

Magical Movies Tour: Fantasia

This was the second time I watched Fantasia since getting Disney+, and it probably won’t be the last. (Unlike Pinnochio, which I really didn’t like much at all on adult revisit) It’s a really beautiful and interesting film, a delightful anthology of music and creativity that’s a wonderful love letter to the way the performing and creative arts communicate with one another.

The pacing surprised me when I revisited it. I felt as a kid that it was an endless wait to get to “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” but it’s only the third segment! I also always loved “The Rite Of Spring” and now I think it’s kind of ugly and dull. I’m no longer a nightmare inclined kid, so I can see “Night On Bald Mountain” and “Ave Maria” as stunning dual images of the supernatural rather than you know, the most terrifying thing ever and a boring parade of lights.

There are so many things that I think get overlooked. I’m sure when designing Hercules Disney Animation when back to “The Pastoral Symphony” because while not identical, so much of the design matches up. “The Nutcracker Suite” images here are still the ones I see in my head when I hear the music. Those fairies spreading dewfall and dancing flowers are much more ingrained than any ballerina.

Fantasia’s initial financial failure is so sad to me. It’s such a special and beautiful film. I actually never saw the sequel Fantasia 2000 so when we get to it in a few months, I’m actually pretty excited to revisit the concept. I may just watch it this week too, in addition to Dumbo, which is, incidentally, our next movie! I’m not sure what I’ll have to say about Dumbo…but I bet it’s racism.

 

Lost In A Tempest

Annalise is Dreaming again and it isn’t good.

Also I’ve maybe been thinking about Reylo….

(I am not going to make Annalise and Brayton Reylo. But they are connected. Kinda like Reylo)

The Marina Chronicle

I slept fitfully after the ride in the valley. We’d had dinner with Olivia, she seems in better spirits, though she kept asking Eric questions about Phania, and his mother. He took them well, but she also seems so tired.

After we ate, I stood quietly on the balcony and Aaron walked out and propped himself up onto the railing. I laughed and looked at him.

“So, Lisette,” he said, “what do we think?”

“You’re the politician,” I said, he laughed. “You tell me.”

“Politically it’s the best match besides myself,” he explained. “But you know that, Father told you that often.” I nodded. “And let’s not forget your mandate. You made need ships, and I would think the Goddess would approve heartily.” That made me role my eyes.

“You don’t believe in my mandate, or the goddess,” I pointed out.

“I don’t not believe in it,” he pushed down…

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Crisis Management: “Crisis On Infinite Earths: Parts 4 & 5”

Shut up, you’re crying.

And I mean a lot. While not quite as fun as it’s rising action, the climax and Epilogue to Crisis On Infinite Earths are both quite good in their own ways, and I think we’d be happiest if we just dig into things.

Crisis On Infinite Earths Part 4 (Arrow Season 8, Episode 8)

After this there are only two episodes of Arrow left, and one of them is the backdoor pilot for Green Arrow And The Canaries, which means really, there’s just one. I’m glad I made the decision to catch up for the final season, despite the show never really resonating with me after season 4.

Anyway, we open in The Vanishing Point and it’s been a minute. We know this because Ryan Choi now has a beard and also he tells us in a helpful voice over. Thanks Ryan. Everyone’s a little stir crazy and they sure hate Lex and Barry is missing! OH NO! Barry shows up again, super confused and then we flash to Purgatory where Corrigan is training Oliver to be the best Spectre he can be. HE then goes to The Vanishing Point and tells Barry he has to go to the Speed Force again or something. Basically everyone gets scattered into the Speed Force and needs to learn something about themselves.

The best (and most secret) cameo comes first, Barry confronts, Barry? But Barry as played by Ezra Miller and the whole scene is a damn delight. Anyway, Barry then has a conversation with Oliver/Spectre about finding everyone. Then Kate learns about Trust from watching Ray and Oliver bicker in the past, J’onn learns about teamwork from watching Oliver and Kara bicker in the past.

Meanwhile, Kara, Lex and Ryan are on Mor Nobu’s planet in the past trying to convince him not to go back in time and create the anti monitor. They succeed, but also don’t?

Anyway, they all go back to the dawn of time and fight The Anti Monitor and Oliver dies (for REALS this time you guys.) to restart everything and it seems to work. Hooray! Sara and Barry meanwhile are very sad about it, because of course they are.

Crisis On Infinite Earths Part 4 (Legends Of Tomorrow Season 5, Episode 1)

The worlds have been merged! And Kara for one, is delighted, as is a random dude on the street who approaches Kara and Barry for an autograph. (It’s Marv Wolfman!Hooray!) Sara meanwhile, is still pretty sad because even though most everyone is now back Oliver now isn’t.

She points out that Oliver was the last person who knew who she was before and this is a difficult loss for her. This is, well, incredibly profound, actually. Sara has lost a lot. (But then I realized, uh, Thea’s still alive right? Thea was young but she knew Sara…) Barry reminds her that Oliver died for all of them but before they can really get it together and giant Beebo attacks Star City.

Hello Legends! Sara calls Eva and Nate to check in about it and they moan about being sucked into another cross over. However, they note there is another Legend besides her and Ray in town.

Mick’s got a book signing and goes to fight Beebo for ruining it. Turns out the Beebo is just an illusion and as they celebrate their victory, everyone is attacked by shadow demons. OH NO!

One last stand off with the anti monitor where Supergirl and Ray save the day stops it. In a quiet moment, the world mourns Oliver Queen, and then Barry, Sara, Jefferson, Kara, Clark and Kate light an eternal flame in his memory. Barry also reveals a round table and the empty warehouse is revealed to be THE HALL OF FUCKING JUSTICE (Well, not Fucking Justice, this isn’t Titans, they’re still on their own world. More’s the pity for my dreams of watching Kate and Kara interact with that version of Dick.)

I look forward to the further bonkers shenanigans of this world, now without unnecessary dimension jumping. (Though Stargirl will still be on it’s own Earth? Good thing The Monitor gave Cisco his powers back?)

Observations

  • The Ezra Miller cameo was such a wonderful surprise I actually fell off the couch. Seriously, such a delight.
  • Lex rewrote things so that the whole world thinks he’s great. He wins the Nobel Peace Prize and everything. Kara is furious. Anyway glad Jon Cryer will be sticking around, he’s a wonderful presence on the show
  • In keeping with Legends being Legends half the episode is just people looking at computer monitors and Sara doesn’t suit up.
  • Kate chills with Alex and Kara at Kara’s apartment, and I’m so happy they’re all in the same world now. I hope Alex and Kate bond over motorcycles and awesome gay lady haircuts.
  • Sara Diggle is back! Hooray! Also, now Lois and Clark have two kids, which will be fun for their upcoming pilot.
  • Things I was hoping for but didn’t get: Digg getting a Green Lantern ring. We did see the Lantern Corp, which I’m assuming is from the upcoming HBOMax show. (I’m going to get HBOMax, purely because of The West Wing so we shall see how that one pans out) Felicity, at all. I know they wanted to save Emily Bett Ricakard’s return for the Arrow finale, but still.
  • While in all reality I want Diggle on The Waverider so we don’t have to say goodbye to Diggle, Rene’s reaction to Beebo (complete confusion) and then interaction with Rory (pouring him champagne) also makes him a good candidate.
  • I mostly cried at the montage of all the superheroes, but especially Routh!Superman flying away and winking at the camera.
  • Best Teamup Of The Crossover: Jefferson Pierce, Killer Frost and Mick Rory. Close second: Nash Wells, Ryan Choi & Ray Palmer (FOR SCIENCE)
  • I’m soaking in every moment of Brandon Routh and still can’t believe we’re losing him after this season.

Overall, I enjoyed the Crisis, the cameos and Easter Eggs were super fun, and I’d rank it third for the big Crossovers (Earth-X, Elseworlds, Infinite Earths, Heroes Vs Aliens, Whatever the Hawkpeople one was) Moving forward I’m going to do my best to keep up and write these check ins. But I’m also trying to watch less TV in general so maybe not. I don’t know yet.

 

The Series Series: The Chronicles Of Prydain By Lloyd Alexander

Hail and Well Met Friends! We’re back to The Series Series, this time picking up The Chronicles of Prydain, which I’d missed as a kid (I don’t know how? Gendered bullshit maybe? How no teacher or librarian didn’t see me devouring The Hobbit and Tamora Pierce’s books and didn’t hand me these, I’ll never know) but saw people buzzing about online a bit lately, due to talk about a Disney+ adaptation (Disney made The Black Cauldron largely considered to be a terrible adaptation and movie) and Kristi mentioned reading them aloud to her newborn son, and I love talking about stuff with her, so I decided to give these a shot.

I am so glad I did.

The Books 

The Book Of Three

The Black Cauldron

The Castle of Llyr

Taran Wanderer

The High King

Author

Lloyd Alexander was born in Philadelphia, and served in World War II, the experience shaped him and he spent some time Wales, and fell in love with their language and mythology, which is why he decided to write his own version. He passed away in 2007.

Series Structure

This is a series of five books each telling it’s own standalone story  but with the same cast of characters. The story revolves mainly around Taran, an orphaned Assistant Pig Keeper to an ancient enchanter named Dalben. (The pig in question tells the future. Her name is Hen-Wen) Taran accidentally begins adventuring with the great hero Prince Gwydion, befriends a mysterious and kindly beast creature called Gurgi, a bard who is actually a king Flewdeur Flwam, and the fiery and magical princess Eilonwy.

Taran becomes a hero himself, after many trials and obviously marries Eilonwy. (Look it’s an old series and there’s only two people around the same age. They were either gettin’ hitched or secretly siblings) 

Themes

Alexander largely based the series in Welsh mythology, which is cool. I don’t know Welsh myths, like at all, but it shares DNA with the Arthur stories I love, and the Celtic myths I know the broad strokes of, and so this shares those Campbellian cycles that I love so much. Calls to adventure, mysterious caves, confounding conversations with goddesses that become clear with time, chosen ones who’s choices are more important than being chosen. All that jazz.

They’re executed well, almost perfectly. Taran is a really good hero, you guys, I don’t know how else to say it. I love him. (I’ve mentioned I love a protagonist in over their head, right? God, I love it so much.)

Favorite Book

Taran Wanderer is a marvel of a book. It’s so stunningly written and the themes (searching is more important than finding also your birth matters less than your character) are well laid out without hitting over the head with them. Taran himself really matures here, though he also uses a lot of the well worn wisdom of The Castle Of Llyr before choosing his long journey to find himself, and to make himself worthy of the girl he loves.

This also lets me talk a little bit about Eilonwy. I adore her, though she’s a bit underwritten, her determination and personality actually remind me quite a bit of my beloved Annabeth Chase.

Least Favorite Book

I suppose The Book Of Three although I loved the entire series. I think I was just shocked by the way the books just start, there’s not a lot of wind up, you’re just there in Prydain, with Taran, it’s cool.

Favorite Character

Taran, hands down. I like everyone here, even Gurgi, who is probably the most “kids bookish” thing and even though to the end Eilonwy has a bit of a “not like other girls” thing going on, (which is why she’s not my pick, I just can’t abide that anymore) His growth is wonderful, his conscience is great, I like him, a lot, I want to spend more time with him and I’m sure he’s a great king in the future we don’t get to see.

Reread Possibilities

Oh I’ll be rereading these. Maybe not soon. But I’ll return to Prydain, probably as often as I return to Hogwarts and Middle Earth, so every five years or so. It won’t be like my yearly pilgrimage to Camp Half Blood, but I’ll be back. I’m sure there’s things I missed in these stories that I’ll get the second time, or even third time I read them.

Our next series (though we have some Star Wars Comics and non fiction in between) will be the Abhorsen series by Garth Nix, I started Sabriel once and dropped it. I don’t remember why. Frankly I remember very little about it, there was a wall? And a missing father? And boarding school? Anyway, it’s five books and they’re relatively thick so it might be a minute before we check back in.