Archive of ‘Recommendation’ category

Nerdy Thursday: Joss Whedon, the feminist

Today, I am feeling particularly inspired by one of my favorite writers of all time: Joss Whedon. And though I could go on and on and on and on about the ways he inspires me, I’m going to focus on one reason in particular. Here it is:

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And here it is again:

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And again! f8052b704453d3858a5b2e53f40a6076

 

 

 

 

 

Yes, today, I am thinking back on all the women I know and love from Whedon’s work, and am feeling not only inspired by them, but honored. Because you see, I can imagine myself among them.

These women are unique and varied. They come in all shapes and sizes and colors. They work in different areas, have a spectrum of expertise, and live into a wide range of roles, but they share some essential qualities:

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They are strong. They are intelligent. They are loving. They are flawed. They are learning, growing, evolving. They are self-aware.

7c4e66a679419b5ef1f39153793f039dInara-FireflyThese are qualities that I recognize. I know them to be true of myself. They are qualities that people of all races, ages, and genders can relate to.

It is refreshing to experience characters that reflect myself–they affirm my identity, but challenge me to be more than what I am. I can learn with them and from them.

So, for that gentle genius, Fred, and the bookish, compassionate Willow; for the stoic and fierce, yet down-to-earth Zoe, and the loyal, ass-kicking Natasha; for the graceful, nurturing Inara, and the kind, smart Kaylee: I give thanks.

1000px-WillowS7-1-And thanks, Joss, for your dedication to creating female characters with dignity and depth. Keep up the good work!

 

 

*Check out my take on Black Widow from AVENGERS 2: AGE OF ULTRON, posted here through Reel World TheologyAvengers_Black_Widow

 

 

 

 

Nerdy Thursday: The Crochet Coral Reef Project

My whole life, I have been an “English person” (language, writing, the arts). In my world, being classified as such was an explanation–an excuse, even–for my lack of understanding and poor grades in math and science. “English person,” “math person”–is there validity to these distinctions? It is certainly pervading language in our culture. We categorize people in ways that isolate them from other possibilities.

In Margaret and Christine Wertheim’s Crochet Coral Reef project, I see a collision of two margaret_wertheim_clip_image003worlds I long thought resided in separate galaxies: Science and art. These women are educated, pioneering, thoughtful, and seem to have a wonderful sense of humor about this crazy, beautiful project which “resides at the intersection of mathematics, marine biology, handicraft and community art practice, and also responds to the environmental crisis of global warming and the escalating problem of oceanic plastic trash” (find the full definition here).

I love the following descriptive piece from their website, which offers a glimpse of the sheer love, joy, and creative chaos that goes into this project:

margaret_wertheim_clip_image001“The two sisters curate the project together from their home in Highland Park, Los Angeles, where they dreamed up the Reef while watching episodes of Battlestar Gallactica and other television fantasies. Much of the Reef has been crocheted during long sessions of serial TV-addictions, including Battlestar, Zena Warrior Princess, Ugly Betty, Sex and the City, and Lost.The project has also been fueled by a continual diet of cinematic feminine energy from Claudia Cardinale‘s transcendent performance in Once Upon a Time in the West, to the ecstatic bad-girl frenzy of Denise Richards and Neve Campbell in Wild Things and Milla Jovovich‘s leavening grace in the Resident Evil series. Sometimes favorite films end up in the Reef itself when a videotape is crocheted into a coral form.”

The Crochet Coral Reef project is fascinating on so many levels. Perhaps one of the most simple is its intersection of science, math, and art. It gives hope to this science-fiction-loving, knitting, math-challenged, English nerd–that I can be more than one thing, and that curiosity might be reason enough to venture past the borders of “I can’t do that.” It reminds me that everything in our world–tangible and intangible–is constantly intersecting in a wild, gorgeous dance that defies categorization. It gives me courage to step out of stereotype.

Southwest_School_exhibition_homepageI first learned about this project by listening to the On Being conversation between Margaret Wertheim and Krista Tippett. Also, check out Wertheim’s TED Talk about the Crochet Coral Reef!

Sneakpeek (4): Who-ology Review (S1: 9,10)

I love writing these Doctor Who reviews. Here’s a piece from my upoming review, which you can find over at Reel World Theology sometime this month. Follow me on Twitter @Laura_Fissel, or Reel World Theology @ReelWorldTheo to make sure you catch the whole thing when it’s released! BE WARNED: SPOILERS GALORE. 

CHILD [OC]: Mummy? Mummy? Please let me in, mummy. Please let me in, mummy.
(A little hand comes through the letter box.)
DOCTOR: Are you all right?
CHILD [OC]: Please let me in.
(Nancy throws something that breaks, and the hand withdraws.)
NANCY: You mustn’t let him touch you!
DOCTOR: What happens if he touches me?
NANCY: He’ll make you like him.
DOCTOR: And what’s he like?
NANCY: I’ve got to go.
DOCTOR: Nancy, what’s he like?
NANCY: He’s empty.
This is the fulcrum of the story. Our “big bad” here (Whedon reference: check) is this child, once a little boy named Jamie. Nancy warns the Doctor that though the boy looks alive, he is actually a hollow, dangerous thing that can pass his condition to others by touch. Throughout the episode, we watch as this “empty child” searches for his origin (“are you my mummy?”). Each time he instinctively reaches out to connect, he only manages to spread his emptiness. The Doctor discovers a whole hospital full of people to whom this has happened. They all bear the same head-trauma, scar on their hand, and gas mask that is not covering their face as much as it has become their face. They are an extension of “Jamie,” who unwittingly controls them all.

What better setting to explore real-world brokeness than WWII-era London, at the height of the London Blitz? The city is dark and dust-covered. Sirens are wailing, warning people to get to bomb shelters. The troubled Nancy is surrounded by starving kids. The four-year-old Jamie, now our “empty child,” was killed. Even as Moffat takes us into a fictional story about aliens and time travel, the historical setting presents the undeniable reality that mankind’s brokenness has catastrophic consequences.

Nerdy Thursday: Invisibilia

thI had no idea what to expect from this NPR podcast when my sister recommended it to me. It’s such a unique blend of storytelling, psychology, history, and science that in some ways, it defies description. Hosts Elix Spiegel and Lulu Miller take a crack at it this way: Invisibilia (Latin for “all the invisible things”) explores the intangible forces that shape human behavior – things like ideas,
beliefs, assumptions and emotions.”

Once I started listening to Invisibilia,
I could quite literally not stop.Invisibilia_1color_SPOT199C I invented reasons to go driving or to clean (my designated podcast-listening times). My house is now spotless.

It’s only been a couple of weeks, but I’ve already lost count of the times I’ve brought into a conversation some story or insight I learned from one of these episodes. I carrying them with me, and see their influence on my life in ways I did not anticipate. Conjuring courage in a scary situation, recognizing the power of my thoughts, being conscious of my expectations of others: I often find a connection between these things and the stories I have heard through Invisibilia.

That is this podcast’s source of power: stories. True, visceral, honest, personal, human stories. Human behavior may be the mind of each episode, but the people sharing their real life experiences are the program’s pulsating heart.

Spiegel and Miller are fantastic hosts. They are enthusiastic, full of life, and unabashedly curious. After crafting thoughtful environments for each episode, they have the humility (and the great sense) to get out of the story’s way.

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Nerdy Thursday: Future Library, Katie Paterson

This week, my husband and I attended a Bryan Series event to see Margaret Atwood (one of my favorite authors of all time) speak.27_margaret_atwood
Among other things, she talked about her involvement in the Future Library project, conceived of and designed by Scottish artist Katie Paterson. This project enlivens my imagination even as it fills me with emotion-confusion. It’s a thing.

So basically, the low-down is that there’s a forest that’s been planted in Norway and it’s going to be allowed to grow for 100 years before it is cut down to print a library of books. Which books? That’s the kicker. Books that we have NEVER READ BEFORE by authors we know and love. Margaret Atwood is the first. Every year for 100 YEARS, another author will add an unpublished unREAD manuscript to the project. Can you read these books? No. And you never will. Unless of course they defeat mortality before then and we are all living forever. Your chances are not great. The best you can do is buy a certificate that entitles you to a complete set of the texts, and hope that it stays in your family to be read by your heirs (ie: someone you *hypothetically* love).

As you can tell by my use of ALL CAPS, the concept of the Future Library is difficult for me as a reader–some of my favorite authors will have written books that I will never read!–but also as a writer. To think: an artist creating something that no one in their lifetime will ever see. With no guarantee that it will make it to the day of its debut!

I guess that’s not such a crazy reality. Many artists weren’t known or appreciated in their day, and as an unpublished author, I am dealing with that issue right now (What is the purpose of my art if no one but me ever sees it? What if I’m never published? Will that negate the work that I’ve done, the stories I’ve told?)

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Plus, there really is something romantic about this idea. It is lavishly generous and hopeful, and as close to time travel as we can get right now! We (as in our time, place, context) are being given the opportunity to live on through artists of our day. And in the years to come, the same will be true for our future generations.

Regardless of which side of the emotional fence I’m on at any given moment, I am always sure of one thing: this project is very artistically brave! It requires a lot of letting go and trust in the future. I hope that in my lifetime, I can learn to be that courageous and selfless with my art.

 

 

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