Sunday, November 29, 2015

Yesterday's Enterprises

While doing 30 Days of Blogging in 2013, (something that I actually managed to do once or twice, unlike NaNoWriMo which I've managed to consistently fail at every year I've tried), one of the suggested topics was to share a memory of one of my parents. I didn't get to it during the month of blogging that year, but on Father's Day that June I wrote this entry about how my father spent hours making mostly military models throughout my childhood, and then described how he made me a set of three Star Trek Enterprises (the original, the Enterprise A, and the Enterprise D) before I went away to college, to take with me. I was pretty sure I still owned them, and ended with this speculation:

It's possible that somewhere in my parents' attic I have a shoebox full of Enterprise fragments, or I have the only models my father made that survived my childhood. Next time I go home, I may want to find out, but the odds are slim since I'm going in December and trips to the attic are weather-dependent.

I didn't make it into the attic in 2013 or 2014, even though I was in the house and the attic clearly isn't going anywhere, but this morning I decided I might as well go up while I remembered that I wanted to, and pulled down the steps.

Attic steps

As I mentioned in the previous entry, the attic isn't climate controlled. No air conditioning makes it up there, and there's very little heat. It's sort of warm right now in upstate New York (A balmy 34 degrees Fahrenheit! Practically summer!), so I figured long pants and a shirt would be warm enough to just climb up for a minute, search one box, and climb back down. My two boxes from college that are both still up there are blue and white striped lidded cardboard storage boxes (in college and after I was still into my all-encompassing "If it comes in blue, then I want it blue" phase, which lasted until about 1999, when living in an apartment painted entirely blue, every wall in every room floor to ceiling in this specific shade, cured me) with notecards describing the contents taped to each lid, and they should have been immediately right of the attic entrance.

They weren't.

Our attic used to be very neatly divided: my stuff at the far right, my brother's at the far left, and my parents' in the middle, closest to the entrance, because they would presumably need their stuff more often than we would need ours. In the intervening years, my stuff has slowly been shoved over by boxes placed in front of it, mostly Christmas items, and somehow my two blue and white boxes moved from the front of my stuff to the very back of my stuff, all the way over. Even worse, when I finally got to them after shimmying around Christmas boxes and moving a huge plastic bin of Legos (which was very heavy), I realized that my careful labelling boiled down to the same notation on both index cards: "Star Trek stuff".

21 year old me needs a stern lecturing about attention to detail.

I finally found the box of models in the second box, and carried it downstairs without opening it. If all the glue had dried and broken in the intervening time, I didn't want to try to find the pieces of these things after they rolled and bounced all over the floor of the attic. The box was not the sturdy shoebox I remembered, but all three ships were still wrapped in paper towels inside.

So, did they survive?

More or less, yes.

There's some discoloration on the top of them, from sitting in the sun on my desk for four years, which becomes really obvious when you turn them over:

Star Trek models (1)

Star Trek models (3)

If there actually was a stand, it wasn't in either box and is presumably gone, but the ships themselves are still in great shape, with paint, stickers, and glue intact, just like when Dad painted and glued them together in 1993:

Star Trek models (2)

Star Trek models (7)

Star Trek models (5)

Star Trek models (6)

Star Trek models (4)

Now we just have to get them back to Tennessee without breaking them.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

"Yes, I have plans for Saturday night."

A funny thing happened to me this summer.

I'm not sure when, exactly, it happened, but sometime over the course of the summer I became addicted to the Saturday night movie premiers on the Lifetime network. Part of it was that I was on call for the whole summer, so going to a movie and paying for a ticket when I might have to leave in the middle seemed foolish. Part of it was that I became part of a small but dedicated online community that live-Tweets the movies, and it's kind of fun to have the actors, writers, and sometimes the network itself favorite or respond to your tweets. And part of it is that the Saturday night movies are almost always that strange combination of wonderful and terrible that I've always loved.

It started out small. There were gateway movies, like gateway drugs, movies that I watched because they were based on a book I'd read or had someone I knew in them or something similar. Movies like Flowers in the Attic, or Liz and Dick (a movie so bad that when I watched it with my mom she asked, twenty minutes in, "Is this supposed to be a real movie? Seriously?"), or The Unauthorized Saved by the Bell Story were the gateway to other movies, and eventually to all of the movies. Dozens of movies. Hours of movies. Every Saturday night, more or less, watching a movie, playing video games, and live tweeting.

My brain is rarely as relaxed as it is every Saturday at 10 PM.

This hasn't been fully wasted time, though. I've also discovered that Lifetime movies are educational. As a matter of fact, here are the top five things I've learned:

1) Never date anyone you met online. Never. The husband she met online, the girl he met online, the wife he met online, the online abductor, they all turn out to be terrible. Sometimes, they just kidnap you, or just rob you. Most of the time, though, the person you met online either murders you, murders your friend, or occasionally sells you into international sex slavery. Online dating is always bad.

2) Never date anyone your family doesn't like. This is especially true if your family doesn't like someone you met online, but it is invalidated, of course, if your family realizes that there's a heart of gold beneath that troubled exterior. For the most part, though, people your family doesn't like almost always turn out to be murderers. They might drug you and make a sex video of you while you're wearing a dog collar, or they might tie you up in a sauna and stab you in the side, or they might push your sister to her death, but for the most part your family is always right. For every skateboarding punk who turns out to be an expert cybertracker who helps find your missing stepsister there are always ten more murdering psychopaths out there drugging their boss at the medical clinic while blackmailing them for money and pretending to love you.

3) Speaking of stairs (we did in the last point, I swear), they are America's silent killer. Anyone who falls, or is pushed, down the stairs dies.

4) Teenagers are always 17. There's actually a reason for this: a 17 year old is young enough that they are still under parental control but is old enough to have sex, drink, do drugs, etc. without the viewer squirming uncomfortably. Sure, those kids probably shouldn't be doing that, but they're almost 18, when whatever that is magically becomes slightly more ok.

5) Nothing all that shocking ever happened behind the scenes of a television show. Seriously, you never learn anything really juicy from an "unauthorized" movie.

You shouldn't skip them, though, because it's Saturday night.

And you should be home, watching Lifetime.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

The Month in Books: October

If I'd given October a little more thought, it would have been a great month to read ghost and monster stories in honor of Halloween. I didn't plan that far ahead, but I did end up spending the last half of the month in a state of "vampire madness", a condition I haven't suffered from since I read most of the Twilight saga back to back in 2010. Vampire Madness is the state of mind when you read books about vampires that slowly move from "just a little weird" to "batshit crazy" over the course of the series.

Before I fell into Vampire Madness, a state that I am half a book from getting out of, I read some other things. I also embarked on a major project regarding my books: getting rid of them.

I'm not getting rid of all of my books. There are sentimental books that I want to keep, but lately I've been looking around my apartment and wondering what I'm going to do with all these books. There are ten bookcases in my living room, stacks of books under all three end tables, a stack of books in the bedroom, a stack of books on the kitchen counter, a stack of books on the counters in both bathrooms... there are a lot of books in my apartment. I will reread some of them, but the rest? I just keep looking at them and wondering why I'm saving them. I'm not having kids. I don't have nieces or nephews. I don't have rare first editions or a valuable library that may sell well at an estate sale when I'm gone. With that in mind, I've been slowly evaluating and clearing out books this month, and anticipate that it will be a continuing project for a while. Eventually, it will have some definite benefits:

1) Fewer books in my house. Anything that makes me less of a hoarder has to be a good thing.

2) More books for me to read. Unless I'm giving them to someone specific or donating them to The Pride Center I take my books to McKay's for credit, which I can then use to buy more books, DVD's, and CD's. McKay's also has a donor bin for books they don't take, and people love picking things out of the free bin, so I'm still getting books out of the house and giving them to a stranger is better than throwing them away.

3) Eventually I will open enough shelf space to start putting my cookbooks on a shelf, rather than stacking them in multiple places around my apartment. This will let me use them more.

With all of that in mind, here are the books I read this month, and their final fates.

1) Erin Kelly's The Burning Air tells a story of revenge against the MacBride family. Privileged and comfortable, the three MacBride children were raised by their father, the headmaster of a private school, and their mother, a magistrate and social crusader. When they gather to spread their mother's ashes, together as a family for the first time since her death, the family immediately unravels as they discover a stranger in their midst and a master plan of revenge that someone has been waging against them for decades, convinced that their mother was a murderer who escaped justice, determined to right the wrong. Unfortunately for the reader, the twists and turns of the revenge plan turn out to be much more exciting and satisfying than the novel's conclusion, which seems rushed and falls a little flat.

I was so annoyed at the lack of actual revenge, and then dumb last minute "shocking twist" that I not only sent this book to McKay's but pulled both of her other books from my shelf and sent them, too.

2) Lauren Beukes' The Shining Girls is the story of Harper, a killer of women who moves throughout time thanks to a House that opens onto different decades at will, and Kirby, the girl who survived a serial killer that no one else believes exists. Troubled and bitter after barely surviving her attack, Kirby and newsman Dan Velasquez are trying to track down a killer who shouldn't exist, chasing clues scattered across decades and women with no links between them except the man who killed them. Even if they find him, how do they stop him when he can step away into their past or their future? And how will they see him coming when he sets his sights on finishing what he started with Kirby? This book was tense, gripping, and a really good read.

I read it on my kindle, so nothing went to the bookstore.

3) Chris Beckett's Dark Eden introduces us to The Family, a collection of a few hundred people living on a faraway world known as Eden, a cold place of eternal night where they huddle in a village beneath the light and warmth of the Forest's glowing trees. Surrounding the Forest are the dark frozen wastes of the Snowy Dark, a place they never venture into as they wait for the travelers from Earth, a legendary planet of brightness, to return to them in boats that sailed the skies. John Redlantern is different, though. He wants to know what lies beyond Snowy Dark, and as food becomes scarce and the Family begins to fight among themselves, John will venture where none of them have gone before, and will learn the shocking truth about their world.

This started out interesting, but ultimately turned into "Lord of the Flies" in space. I probably will not pick up the sequel, and I took it to the bookstore.

4) Douglas Coupland continues to trick me in Generation A. I'm sure I've explained this before: once I read a Douglas Coupland book and really liked it, and I continue to read his books with the assumption that I will find another that I enjoy as much as that first one. Once again, it hasn't happened, and I had to force myself through this unsatisfying story of five strangers in the near future, who are all stung by bees long after bees are declared extinct.

I was so enraged at being tricked, once again, by Douglas Coupland that this book turned out to be the straw that broke the camel's back. I took all of the Douglas Coupland books on my shelf, including Girlfriend in a Coma, the one that I read once a really long time ago and enjoyed, to the used bookstore. Not only did this fill me with momentary joy (almost as much as when I threw Jonathan Franzen's books in the bag later in the month; I thought I understood the true meaning of Freedom when I finally turned the last page and escaped that dreary paper doorstop, but it turns out that turning a profit on getting that thing out of here was even more uplifting), but I also discovered that Coupland didn't even write one of the other books that I was counting in the "sometimes he's not terrible" pile. I love Dictator Style, but somehow it's escaped me for the past eight years that Coupland only wrote the introduction.

5) Is Bruce Wayne doing the most good possible by being Batman, or could he help Gotham City more in other ways? Is it morally wrong to turn your ward into a crimefighter? Is Batman really any different from the Joker, or are both compelled to follow their absolute truths? Is Batman more heroic than Superman? And can Batman and Superman ever have a friendship of equals? If you've ever wondered about these, or a dozen or so other philosophical questions about Batman, then you might enjoy reading Batman and Philosophy, in which twenty authors dissect the ethical, moral, and philosophical implications of Batman and his actions through the writings of history's greatest philosophical minds. For the most part, I enjoyed this, except for one chapter that asks, "Could Batman ever be the Joker?", walks us through a dozen or so densely written and sometimes confusing pages, and then says, "Well, we didn't even really need to ask because it happened in this issue."

I got this from McKay's and it went back to McKay's when I was done.

6) In Lexicon, Wil is on the run from a mysterious organization. Wil has seen something that has killed three thousand people, and somehow he's survived. He is the outlier, immune to the effects of glimpsing a forbidden word that drives people to murder everyone around them. Emily is a Poet, trained by the organization chasing Wil. She can use language to confuse, mislead, or outright control people, and she and Wil are now on a collision course. They may not survive, and the world may not, either. This was a good read, fast paced and sometimes surprising.

I've read some of Max Barry's other work and enjoyed it, and I enjoyed this, so for now his books remain in the apartment.

7) V. E. Schwab's Vicious introduces us to Victor and Eli. Ten years ago, they were college roommates working on their senior thesis projects, Victor's on the body's adrenaline response and Eli's on the aftereffects of near death experiences. When they get the idea to combine them, the results are immediate and catastrophic. Ten years later, Victor is a convicted criminal, rumored to be superpowered and considered extremely dangerous after escaping prison. Eli is a hero, lauded in the newspaper for stopping a bank robbery. Victor is coming for Eli, to settle old scores and new ones, to determine once and for all which of them is really the hero and which is really the villain. This was a fast read, but entertaining and at times rather tense.

I read this on my kindle, but would probably have sent it to the used bookstore even though I liked it.


8) I thought "Twilight" was the most batshit insane vampire series I've ever read, but apparently that was only because I somehow forgot about reading Christopher Pike's "The Last Vampire" series when I was younger. Thirst: Book 2 finishes the reprint of the original six book series, with the three final books of Sita's story. For those who don't remember, the first three books introduced us to Sita, a five thousand year old blue eyed, blond vampire from India (she's ancient Aryan) who was the last vampire in the world, pursued by Yaksha, the first vampire and her creator. In the last book she fought Yaksha, went back to high school for some reason (why do vampires do this?), detonated a hydrogen bomb outside of Las Vegas, and the book ended when she used a mysterious alchemical process invented by her lover from the Dark Ages to change herself back into a human.

In this book, she gets impregnated by a ghost, gives birth to an Indian death goddess' human avatar, saves a reincarnated Baby Jesus from being eaten by lizard aliens, becomes an even more powerful vampire, then travels back in time to kill the first vampire before he can make any others, erasing herself from history. You'd think erasing herself from history would be the end, but no, there are somehow three more books after this one.

9) In Christopher Pike's Thirst 3: The Eternal Dawn it's been 15 years since Sita, the last vampire, went back in time and erased herself from history, except that it turns out she didn't! Like many time traveling vampire ladies, she telepathically commanded the author of her previous adventures, her friend Seymour, to believe that she was a figment of his imagination and that she'd erased herself, when in reality she went back in time to defeat alien lizard people working with the Moors to invade ninth century Europe through Sicily, and then she retired to a quiet life in an unspecified state to stalk Teri, the college athlete descendant of her daughter from before she became a vampire. After killing a rapist who is stalking Teri, Sita ingratiates herself into Teri's life, befriending her and Teri's sexy boyfriend, sexy Matt, who Sita cannot stop thinking sexy thoughts about even though she would never do anything to hurt Teri.

Meanwhile, Sita is being stalked by an evil corporation called the ICC, whose telepathic Array is letting them take over the world. Sita is also being stalked by an ancient race of Egyptian immortals, the enemies of the ICC. Both sides want to recruit her for reasons which are never specified, and their pursuit of Sita endangers her, Seymour, Teri, sexy Matt, all of humanity, and the reincarnated Jesus from the last book, who is now a video-game obsessed teenager. Can Sita protect herself and those she loves? And does sexy Matt hide a sexy secret? And, also, can Teri win gold in the Olympics because there isn't enough happening in this book already?

10) In Christopher Pike's Thirst Book4: The Shadow of Death, Sita and her friends are still fighting the mysterious IIC, the corporation bent on psychic manipulation and domination of the world's governments and financial markets, and the Telar, the race of Egyptian immortals determined to wipe out humanity with their genetically engineered supervirus plague that's also a toxic poison, because science works that way. At the same time, though, everything has changed! At the conclusion of the last book, Sita turned Teri into a vampire, but then Sita was killed... OR WAS SHE?


Teri died, but Sita is still alive in Teri's vampire body, because teenaged reincarnated Jesus stuck her in there for reasons! Some sort of mysterious reasons, because tennaged reincarnated video game playing Jesus works in mysterious ways. Now she has to continue the fight even though she is a newborn vampire and plagued by the thirst for blood for the first time in thousands of years. Also, she has to keep Sexy Matt from discovering that she's not really Teri, because she figured out that she and Sexy Matt can have sex now since he won't think he's cheating on Teri, and she gets right to the sexing even though the fate of the whole world is at stake. Now, can Sita use the IIC to destroy the Telar before the IIC betrays her? And even if it succeeds, can she also defeat the IIC? And keep Sexy Matt from discovering the unsexy truth? And also survive her trip to the Greek underworld? And defeat a surprise last minute villain: LUCIFER HIMSELF?

Despite this being marketed as the last final Last Vampire book, I'm currently halfway through the sequel, which has Sita fighting Nazis, Lucifer, a malevolent computer artificial intelligence, and her continuing sexy desires for sexy Matt.

Vampire Madness is real, and it's insane.