Tuesday, September 16, 2014

My Summer Getting Adults to Read Comics in the Library

Last year when I heard about the Will Eisner Graphic Novel Grant for Libraries, I decided I wanted to apply and try to do something more with my library's graphic novel collection. The trouble was, I didn't have any pet projects in the pipeline, no great idea that was only waiting for funding.

The truth is, the community I work in doesn't have a strong natural comics readership. Our graphic novels go out enough to warrant having them, but they don't fly off the shelves. I knew I wanted to give the collection a signal boost, not only to give it more press, but because I believe in the literary value of the format and I hate when it gets the shaft. As both a highly visual and linguistic adult, I consider both types of literacy to be precious, especially at a time when we are relying so much on digital interfaces to accomplish tasks.

Luckily there's an embarrassment of riches in the world of adult comics. That's something I wanted to share with the people in my community, both for their own edification and awareness, and to help connect them with other family members or friends who might be comics fans. And maybe, just maybe, I might convert a few of them into fans themselves.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Summer of Fear: Safe as Houses

I consider myself lucky that when I wake up in the morning, I almost always remember at least one dream I had the night before. Not everyone does, and I find many of them full of insight that help me understand myself better. Sometimes they even help inspire me to a song or story. I can even still recall highlights of dreams I had when I was a child, although many fade from memory after a few hours.

There was one particular dream I had a few years ago that I found helpful in another way.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Summer of Fear: Kiss or Wave Goodbye

I've written about some very typical and sometimes ridiculous fears so far in this series, so the tone of this entry will be a shift. But I never intended Summer of Fear to be all fun and spider stories.

Something about me that often goes unspoken, but likely not unnoticed by my friends, is how badly I take it when people I care about move away. I would go so far as to say I am sometimes traumatized by it, depending on who it is. I lash out in weird ways. It's very strange, but it's a sort of fear of abandonment that grips me when I hear news of a move. "They're leaving me! I'll be alone!"

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Summer of Fear: Spider crab, Spider crab

THIS IS A REAL LIVING THING. Spider crabs are the physical embodiment of every nightmare in the history of the world. It is a real live monster. When I see it sitting there, up against the glass at the aquarium, I can sense it fantasizing about eating my head. And I'll bet it would make that fake hissy movie spider noise when it attacks, too. WHAT KIND OF WORLD WOULD ALLOW SUCH A THING TO EXIST.

Worst. Creature. Ever.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Summer of Fear: Chucky

One thing I love about the long history of horror films is how each decade his its own unique type of horror film that's a product of new generations of filmmakers, new technology, culture, politics, media, and so on. They each have something special to offer. The 50's were a fantastic time for creature features, the 60's for psychological, suspenseful scares, the 70's got a lot bloodier and gruesome, really running with the serial killer trend. Then there were the 80's.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Summer of Fear: Heights (...and Falling From Them)

Earlier this month I went on a little mini-vacation for a weekend-long, outdoors workshop for women. If this already sounds interesting to you, they have these "Becoming an Outdoors Woman" workshops all over the country, and I absolutely loved mine. You spend a lot of time in a natural setting, you learn all sorts of new things from awesome instructors, and it's a great opportunity to meet new friends. True story, I met three other librarians without even trying. We sort of gravitate to each other that way, it's a beautiful thing.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Summer of Fear Not Scared! Edition: Triskaidekaphobia

When I was young, I once read a book all about superstition. The only topic from it that stuck with me was about why we say "Bless you" after someone sneezes. The author said it had come from a superstition that our souls could escape or could otherwise be vulnerable to evil forces. Looking back on this now, it appears the author was not necessarily right. Good ol' Snopes.

Either way, it had a tremendous impact on me. Being a curious child who was taught to think critically about the information I received, I reacted appropriately. "That's ridiculous," I thought. "I don't believe that, so I'm going to stop saying 'Bless you.'" And I did-- from that day on, I never again uttered those words after a sneeze. Even if that isn't the real origin, I still see no reason to bless anybody because of a sneeze. I'm not religious, blessing things has no significance to me. And we don't feel compelled to bless anybody after they cough or vomit or anything. Why the sneeze? Sorry Snopes, but your explanation just isn't good enough to get me to start it up again. Doing something just because we've always done it is a poor reason to continue any irrational practice.

While this superstition is pervasive, it doesn't have an intense psychological effect on anyone, as far as I know. I've never had anyone sneeze, panic, grab me and scream "FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, BLESS ME OR WE'RE BOTH GOING STRAIGHT TO HELL."

There are others that can create serious phobias, with the most well-known being triskaidekaphobia.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Summer of Fear: Stage Fright

One fear that I think almost every single human being has in common is that of stage fright. Even experienced performers and speakers regularly admit to feeling anxiety before they do whatever it is they do in front of an audience: sing, dance, speak, tell jokes... juggle man-eating poodles while riding a unicycle? Not sure about that last one.

Being usually human, I too suffer from this condition. I'm neither a novice who craves the anonymity of the audience, nor an experienced pro. I'm somewhere in the no-man's land between. I've danced a little, I've done music, I teach classes at the library I work at, and I've even experienced the enviable opportunity to be an zombie extra on a small local stage for a musical "Night of the Living Dead." (Thanks Ali!)

Friday, June 6, 2014

Summer of Fear: Spiders

Let’s start with something easy and funny to talk about. Something universal. Arachnophobia is a very common fear, and I've suffered from it for as long as I can remember. Spiders are everywhere, both in real life and the media we consume. And they are horrid. I don’t even understand our need to create imaginary monsters, because we have them: nature gave them to us, free of charge.

Monday, June 2, 2014

The Summer of Fear

Numbers. Let’s talk numbers from the past year. I’m getting bad vibes from the number two. I’ve been through: two cars, two human deaths, two back injuries. On my second car, I’ve been through two semi-expensive repairs. What does it all mean? It means after also having to put my 18 year old cat to sleep last month, I feel like I’ve got another death hanging over my head, just waiting to happen.

So going through all of that is, oddly, not conducive to writing. You’re supposed to use emotional things like this to fuel your art, right?

Monday, February 3, 2014

Horror vs. Sci-fi: Genre and the Nature of Disbelief

In my opinion, Sci-fi/Horror is one of the greatest genre hybrids of all time. It reaches all the way back to Mary Shelley writing about Frankenstein's Monster, which was a defining work in both genres. They fit together so well in part because they inspire questions about the consequences we face as individual people, as a society, as creatures on a planet that may or may not be alone in time or space. They both deal in the unknown, or unexplained, but often in different ways. For example, science fiction looks into the vastness of space and sees possibility, advanced technology, the enlightenment of discovery and the awesome potential of meeting new intelligent life. Horror wants to show you why you should be very, very afraid of those things.

But that's a shallow reading of the potential of each genre. The truth is, they can reach and be so much more. They are not mutually exclusive, and sometimes they can even swap M.O.'s and really blow your mind. 

Merging science fiction and horror has resulted in some amazing films. The adaptations of FRANKENSTEIN should be mentioned, but two of the best and most successful examples are ALIEN and ALIENS. Other films worth mentioning include THE THING, SCANNERS, and VIDEODROME. Even the 1953 version of WAR OF THE WORLDS is considered to be a hybrid of the two genres. 

Thinking about this has made me wonder, though: Even if the two genres fit together well, do we experience them differently? Do I approach them differently? Do I expect more from science fiction than I do of horror?

And I'll tell you what made me even entertain the idea that there might be a difference: EVENT HORIZON.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Film review: The Haunting in Connecticut 2

I used to be a lot better about staying up to date on new movies, but the fact of the matter is, it's a hell of a lot of work and I sort of gave up the past few months. I have a feeling I'm missing out on a lot by being passive, and waiting for this information to work its way to me via the few channels I still use on a semi-regular basis. So it wasn't until recently that I realized a) The Haunting in Connecticut 2 was out and b) on DVD and c) on Netflix. Yep.

I really liked the first film, I've watched it maybe three or four times now. It's got some of my favorite story themes: spiritualism, haunted house, horror of physical disease, historical content, a mystery demanding to be solved. I find it creepy as hell, and appreciate the hopeful ending. So I gave the sequel a shot, hoping beyond hope.