Happy Friday from C-3PO.

In which some adorable folks calling themselves the “Star Wars Club of Tunisia” do a super delightful version of Pharrell Williams’ Happy, dancing in costume through the abandoned Tatooine sets in the Tunisian desert. No, I know!

(If you happen to be unfamiliar with original, I urge you to fill that lacuna in your life’s education — click here)

h/t BuzzFeed

The Fault in Our Stars and American death.

PLEASE NOTE THAT HEREUNDER BE (mild) SPOILERS.

I think I’ve been pretty open in my admiration for author/internet person John Green. I love his videos, I love his engagement with community, I love his sense of humor, and I love his writing — which is to say: As a reader, I love his stories, and as a writer, I love how he uses language. I claim with pride the mantle of nerdfighter (if you don’t know what that is, go here and/or here) and do my best everyday not to forget to be awesome (here). (I’m also a huge, huge fan of John’s brother Hank, but I digress).

The work for which the elder Green is best known — far and away — is his 2012 book The Fault in Our Stars, recently made into a movie (June 6 release). TFIOS (as the title gets shortened) is a small masterpiece, managing to be neither maudlin, nor treacley, nor false in telling the story of the romance between two teenagers with cancer. It’s an affirmation of the ways in which all lives matter, no matter how few the years or how small the stage, and a reminder of the power of love and joy to create infinity, even when the end of days is all too evident. It’s a thing of beauty, a wonder-ful piece of art that is deeply, deeply human. It’s also been translated into a gajillion languages — I read some of the Hebrew translation in Israel last year and burst into tears as if I’d never read it before — and has inspired an avalanche of TFIOS-inspired fan art, much of it created by the teenaged, YA audience for whom Green originally intended the book.

As you might imagine, the anticipation for the movie is at something of a fever pitch, and when the first trailer was released this week, whole sections of the Internet collectively lost their shit (in a good way). Green (who has been closely involved with the film project from the beginning) asked fans to record their reactions to the trailer, and so many did. One young girl, 13 year old  Naomi Horn, talked about losing her uncle to pancreatic cancer when she was seven, and then just two years later, having to watch her mother face down breast cancer; both the trailer and Naomi’s video are embedded below.

But now, 400 words later, I come to my point.

Watching Naomi’s video last night, it struck me that I’d never really made a mental connection between The Fault in Our Stars and my own father’s death to cancer, when he was only 35 and I was just a baby. Those facts were, I think, too far in the past — and anyway, back when my dad was dying, people didn’t talk about the fact that they were dying. There was no pre-gaming the event, no preparing the family, no writing journals for the children who would come of age without him — just denial. It was the mid-60s, and (my mother tells me) you just didn’t talk about it.

And so it came to me to wonder what kind of difference it might have made in my life if a book like TFIOS had been around when I was Naomi’s age and still very much struggling to accept that I would never know my father — that I could (as I later put it) cry a river, and it would never bring me to him.

But then, an hour or so later, it came to me to wonder what a difference it might have made for my father if he had had a book like TFIOS when he was young — when the idea that he might die at 35 would no doubt have seemed impossible.

We can only live in the slice of history into which we are born. There was no TFIOS in the 1940s when my dad was a teenager (or in the 70s/80s, when I was one) because American culture had to reach a point where we could allow a TFIOS.

But in the moments in which these thoughts came tumbling into my forebrain, I thought of another thing: The Fault in Our Stars is not just a phenomenal book — it is also a turning point in the way that American culture deals with death. It is the turning point — John Green has created a turning point for us, a turning point full of kindness and gentleness and honesty and humanity and deep, deep mattering.

That turning will only be magnified by the movie, which will in turn be magnified by the many, many ways in which the TFIOS community responds and America responds and the people who have read and watched all across the globe respond — but it all started with John Green. With one book that will matter in ways that people reading it today will not know until they are forced to call upon its lessons in the future.

I’m sorry my father couldn’t have had those lessons as he approached his own too-young death, and that I didn’t either, as I tried to grow up without him. But I’m grateful, and a little overawed, as I think about the mighty gift that John Green has given the world in the form of Hazel Grace and Augustus Waters. What a gift. Thank you.

*

For my next birthday….

You have a little over eleven months to prepare, which should be plenty of time to get me this combination staircase/bookshelf/slide:

Just what every girl needs, really.

Thoughts on shipping.

A ship-shipping ship, shipping shipping ships. source (for the image, as well as the caption)

A ship-shipping ship, shipping shipping ships. source (for the caption as well as the image. I’m not that clever).

Not that kind of shipping. Shipping. Like when you write fan fiction (on paper or in your head) in which fictional characters fall in luuuuve with each other and (presumably, at some point) have sex and/or are permanently joined together in sacred and/or fleshy bliss. It comes from the word “relationship” – hence “shipping,” as in: “I ship Harry and Ron, everyone knows they were the real love story at Hogwarts!”

And if you don’t know it yet — yes, that really is a thing, all across the various realms of geekdom, and recently more broadly in popular culture. So you’ll have fan communities who create art or write stories or make videos that bring together two (or more) characters who were not imagined by their creator as romantically involved.

Coupla things. Thing the First, and let’s just get this out of the way: I have a thing about canon. The creator is, to my mind, God in the universe of these characters to whom we feel so attached, and thus, if JK Rowling didn’t think that Harry and Ron would fall in love — well, she would know. Plain and simple. It’s one thing to create fan art that builds on the creator’s world, but I honestly think it’s another thing entirely to upend the story as the creator intended for it to be told. In my always humble (and probably minority) opinion.

But here’s Thing the Second, and Thing the Second is actually the thing that I believe is most important.

Most of these imagined relationships (Harry-Ron, Kirk-Spock, Jess-Jules [Bend It Like Beckham], Arthur-Merlin [Merlin], Katniss-Peeta-Gale, etc and so on, ad infinitum) don’t just upend the story as originally conceived, they upend the sexuality of those involved, often because the characters are so close — their relationship runs so deep — that we do not know how to let it be friendship. We do not know how to understand need and longing and fierce loyalty, unless it’s about romance and sexuality.

And thus, to my mind, when we ship Kirk and Spock, or Arthur and Merlin, or Sam and Frodo, we’re not only doing a disservice to the creator’s vision, we’re dishonoring the characters, and revealing more about about ourselves and our society than we may have intended. 

Note, for instance, that most shipping seems to entail male characters — as a society, we’re usually ok with girls and women loving each other and expressing that love in a way that is not romantic or sexual. Men on the other hand? We really don’t know what to do with that.

So we change it. We diminish and dismiss men’s capacity for loving each other — truly, deeply loving each other — and insist that such love can only find true expression in something akin to 21st century notions of romance and sexuality.

Once upon a time, in mid-19th century America, men wrote love letters to each other — honest to God, “I haven’t been able to stop thinking of our last hours spent together,” love letters to each other. Like, it was thing. You wrote to your friends and told them how you felt.

And true to late-20th/early 21st century form, letters such as these have led some to conclude that Abraham Lincoln himself was gay, despite copious evidence to the contrary — because why else would he express such tender affection for a man? Even though I presume that at least some of the men writing these letters were, in fact, expressing an emotion to which they were otherwise unable to give voice, sheer statistics would suggest that most of them weren’t. Which is to say: We weren’t always like this, America.

I do understand that some fan fic/shipping comes in response to the appalling dearth of LGBTQ love stories in our culture, and I guess it’s easier for me, a straight woman, to not want to validate the work that some people create around a love they’d like to see expressed. I will concede that.

But beyond that, mostly it just cheeses me off. You cannot tell me that a romantic, sexual relationship between Sam and Frodo would have been deeper or more real than the relationship we are told they had; you cannot tell me that Merlin’s love for Arthur was any less because they didn’t have sex.

I’m tired of telling boys and men that they cannot, may not love each other — frankly, shipping of this kind is little more than the flip-side of guys who yell “No homo!” after a big hug. There is nothing wrong with men falling in love with other men; there is also nothing wrong with men having loving friendships.

And with that, I have likely sealed my fate in the geek community, and so I bid you adieu. It was fun while it lasted. I’ll just be over here, reading my books.

Here’s Wonder Woman. [SPOILER: I am not Wonder Woman].

I intended to write something today.

In fact, that’s what it says on my To Do list: “Write something.”

Yet, though I have accomplished much, THAT has not happened.

And so, I leave you with this ding-dang awesome fan-made short Wonder Woman film, via BuzzFeed — to read an interview with Rileah Vanderbilt, the kickass woman who plays Wonder Woman, click through.

*

Man oh man, I want a Wonder Woman movie already.

PS See also: The Wonder Woman car.

I hope someday to return to Love Your Orchid.

Hereunder you will find a map of Europe in which the names of the countries are translated back from Chinese, character-by-character — but bear in mind that the foreign-place-naming system in Chinese is phonetic, assigning characters the sound of which corresponds most closely with the countries’ actual names, having nothing to do with the meaning of the characters. So you know, the following is meaningless. And wildly inaccurate. And could get you fired. (No, not really. But the other two, totally).

europe_map_chinese

*

All hail haonowshaokao, the source of this marvelous artifact (“West Classtooth” – heh!), whose original post + comments sections are the source of all I know about how foreign place-names are created in Chinese, and h/t Twister Sifter, which is a source of many fairly weird and wonderful things, including the 40 Maps That Will Help You Make Sense of the World post wherein I found the above.

What space sounds like.

You heard me.

From NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory:

*

Voyager.

captures.sounds.

of.interstellar.freaking.SPACE.

I mean. I just.

Did you hear me? You heard me! You heard SPACE!

And now, just for snicks, throw in the fact that Voyager has left the solar system. It’s gone. Se fue. And we have no idea whatsoever where it will end up and what it might find. I honest-to-goodness have chills just writing that.

It’s only a matter of time….

kirk voyager

This is VidCon, too.

vidconI haven’t been around virtually because I’ve been away physically: The boy wanted to go to VidCon, dedicated his bar mitzvah money to that precise purpose, and this past weekend, that’s where we were.

And if you’re unfamiliar with VidCon (as every single person I know in Meat Space appears to be), reading “we were at VidCon” won’t tell you much, so A) you might want to click the link I embedded above, and B) I’mma tell you a little something about it.

VidCon is an annual gathering of YouTube creators and their fans, founded by The Vlogbrothers, Hank and John Green, in 2009. It started out in a hotel basement; this year, there were about 11,500 attendees. The content created by all those YouTube creators ranges from daily vlogging, to dissemination of the news (from gossip to politics), to Harry Potter parodies, to Disney parodies (watchthiswatchthiswatchthis: “After Ever After”), to music, to scifi, to imaginary rap battles between cultural icons, to chemistry explorations/explosions, to… well, whatever you can think of and then something else you’ve never imagined.

Hank Green – self-described “Internet Guy” — is also a biochemist and environmental scientist, and John Green is also a mega-author whose The Fault in Our Stars is being made into a movie, kind of as we speak. But what they are, really, is wonderfully creative and generous people who have taken bold steps and made great stuff (such as the Crash Course series, in which John teaches literature and history, and Hank teaches science), and occasionally done very silly things, too (and, you know, not always in the good sense of “silly”…), and at every step of the way, every single moment at which their own stars have burned even just a little brighter, they have caught the hands of other people and brought them along.

And this is where we get to my point: In the course of creating what became The Vlogbrothers, John and Hank also created Nerdfighteria, the notional transglobal hometown of Nerds who fight to decrease world suck and increase world awesome — which, while not (perhaps) the most elegant way of putting things, has a way of cutting right through to the heart of the matter.

And baked right into decreasing world suck and increasing world awesome is being generous, and bringing others along, and building up rather than tearing down, and celebrating delight. It’s about being human and humane and allowing the best of everyone to emerge and not telling anyone who they are or how they must be, but letting people tell their own stories and own their own truth. And when Nerdfighteria is at VidCon, it’s not about the inevitable distance between creator and audience, but about climbing over that wall, about collaboration, and inclusion, and engagement. (Ok, here’s an example: Hank and John are forever saying that they got into all this by being impressed and moved by a different vlogger, Ze Frank [I particularly recommend his Sad Cat Diary and Human Tests], and thus all credit for the entire thing belongs to him).

This was a group of 11,000-12,000 people hugging each other, being kind to each other, feting each other’s talent and joy, and laughing a lot. I can’t tell you — I mean, I really can’t, I don’t begin to have enough of the right words for it — what it means as a parent to watch my just-barely-not-14-year-old boy move into the world through that door. The boy and I spent a lot of time entirely apart on Friday and Saturday (I was there, after all, as a facilitation device, not as a boon companion) and at any given moment, when I looked into those vast crowds, I knew he was fine. I knew he was surrounded by people who were kind and generous and laughing.

Kind and generous and laughing and mutually supportive in ways that really matter — here’s another example: At Saturday’s panel on Educational Content on YouTube (on the panel: Emily Graslie of The Brain Scoop, Derek Muller of Veritasium, Destin of Smarter Every Day, and John Green, in this case wearing his Crash Course hat), John fielded a question about his plans for future Crash Course History videos, and in among the response was a sentence that went something like this: “Here’s the problem – as a white, heterosexual, cis-gendered male, I need to acknowledge that…”. I mean, seriously. This guy and his brother (who created this why-haven’t-you-watched-it-yet video on human sexuality) are the people who founded this thing, and this is the way they talk.

Cut to the next day — the boy and I are in line at Disneyland, and he’s staring into the middle distance. Suddenly: “Mom?”

“Yes?”

“I’ve thought of another reason that men need feminism.”

The reason boiled down to the fact that our culture doesn’t allow men to unironically enjoy experiences that aren’t deemed “masculine” — but he had just emerged from two and a half days in which men all around him were doing that, and supporting women in doing whatever they want to do. Which is to say: While the boy is right that men need feminism as much as women do, he’s able to see and articulate that better after watching feminist men and women in action.

Soon after this exchange, while waiting to get on a different ride, I tweeted this:

and of all things, John Green (!) himself replied, thusly:

But that’s the thing, isn’t it? Good parenting (and the husband and I are good parents, I have no doubt about that and will wrestle to the ground anyone who says otherwise, though possibly not in front of the children, because: Role Models!) is very, very important and yes, we talk with both of our kids about all of these things, all the time.

But #vidcon — and by extension, all culture and any community that supports the kind of world-suck-decreasing-world-awesome-increasing humanity that we’re trying to teach our children — is buried deep in a moment like that one my son and I had as we waited to get on the Indiana Jones Adventure. It takes a village, for real, and VidCon isn’t just an opportunity to squeal upon seeing one’s favorite YouTubers (the boy and I didn’t squeal, but trust: there was squealing), it’s also a culture and a community that teaches 14 year old boys to think in ways that the broader culture often fails to do.

And I mean, sure: VidCon was also very, very long lines. It was also pretty Caucasian (though efforts are being made on that front, as well). It was also (if you ask me) way too much veneration of Disney musicals. And I suspect that if you were looking for it, it was also debauchery and people making the occasional bad choice, too.

But mostly it was enthusiasm and intelligence and generosity and celebrating delight and all kinds of things that I want more of in my own life, not to mention the boy’s (the girl’s).

VidCon is an annual gathering of YouTube creators and their fans – but this is VidCon, too.

And that’s my report for today. As they say in my hometown: Don’t forget to be awesome.

nerdfighter-logo

Update: Apparently there were some isolated cases of young girls being harassed/assaulted (I hope it was more the latter than the former, though I don’t know, and Lord knows the former is sufficiently terrible) at the Con — here’s John Green’s response thus far, and based on previous exposure to both Vlogbrothers, there will likely be more forthcoming.

Like a leaf on the wind. Of cuteness.

Wherein a very wee cosplayer, dressed as me-in-another-’verse, meets my-husband-in-another-’verse, and I explode from the cute:

alan tudyk little kaylee

Brought to my attention by my gal @alisonrose711; original source; if you don’t know the reference, you’ll find your answers after the jump.

(more…)

On Star Trek and male tears.

kirk and spockSo behind. On so many things. OMG.

Among the things on which I am no longer behind, however, is Star Trek: Into Darkness; I am, however, behind on writing about it, which I intended to do the day after we saw it, which was like, what was it now (counts on fingers), ten days ago? Ish?

Be forewarned: Spoilers ahoy. (But you should have seen it by now, anyway).

Anyhow, here I am, and bottom line: It was good. Not great, certainly not as good as the original reboot (can we say that? “Original reboot”?), but pretty good, and absolutely enjoyable. Worth the money. I laughed out loud at the reference to Christine Chapel.

I do remain flummoxed as to why the men of this generation of Blockbuster Filmmaking appear congenitally incapable of writing/directing/producing so much as two female characters who actually interact with each other (seriously: JJ, Joss, Peter? What the hell?), but I’m so used to that by now that I’m not even going to bother going into it here. (More women in Hollywood would be boss, but honestly, before we even raise that question, you’d think that these men, of all men, might have cracked that particular nut on their own. Honestly). (Anyway).

No, while the women/lack of women/lack of diversity of female shapes/I could go on but I won’t… bothered me, I was more struck by something else, something positive: The men.

I’ve been a Star Trek geek since I was a child, and I believe that Star Trek, in its many iterations, is part of what is makes today’s world better than the one into which I was born. Truly. Over the course of the various series and movies, Star Trek has brought into our culture a multi-hued universe in which women could hold positions of authority, sexuality was (a little) fluid, diversity of culture was valued, and serious questions about the nature of humanity and human interaction were broached (nearly) every week (also, there was some bad fashion and way too much of Riker’s trombone, but I digress). The universe that Star Trek presented was never perfect, but it has generally been better than the one in which we actually live.

And the men have always been, ya know. Manly.

Mucho manly. Strong. Stoic. Occasionally weak at the knees over a dame, or possibly a life-altering experience, and everyone knows that Spock has been, and always shall be, Kirk’s friend. And once that’s been established, Kirk yells (ahem): “KAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHNNNNNNNNNNNNN!” because he’s manly and his friend has just died and men vow vengeance reallyreally loudly when their friends die.

But in Into Darkness, Spock and Kirk aren’t just friends. They’re loving. They love each other. When Spock looks absolutely baffled when Kirk says “I would have missed you,” Kirk rolls his eyes and sighs loudly and walks away, clearly stung and frustrated. When Uhura complains about how withholding Spock can be, she ropes Kirk into the conversation, who initially resists being roped into the conversation, but then joins in (and then, you know, somethingsomething the shuttle’s in danger! something).

By the end of the movie, Spock is no longer visibly baffled by expressions of affection, and Kirk weeps and tells Spock he’s scared, and then Spock does the little he can to try to help his friend with his fear and then, when he yells: “KAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHNNNNNNNNNNNNN!” – well, ok, that moment might be too abidingly linked with William Shatner’s Kirk to work as well as you want it to, but still, it carries a different kind of wallop.

And there are other moments in which men get to demonstrate a range of emotion and affection they are rarely allowed in mainstream film, and: Wow. I was moved, and I was grateful.

Because while there is clearly nothing wrong with love scenes between men — that is not the only way in which men love each other. That is not the only way in which men can feel tenderness and vulnerability with each other. Men shouldn’t have to be gay in order to openly love each other.

And that’s what I have to say about Into Darkness. Late, jumbled, much too rushed, but there it is. Thanks, Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto - you did great.

And now I’m off to the next thing I’m behind on.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 3,829 other followers