Dear Mr. Shatner

Dear Mr. Shatner (or rather, “his people”, which is perfectly respectable and very hard work)

I may have started writing a song for this, unsure what to say. I don’t like asking for things; my parents hated that I refused to write letters to Santa. But then I found something, tucked between a flyer for the first convention I ever went to and the program for my first grade play. I thought I’d thrown it out years ago, having had an odd love/hate relationship with this keepsake from my first time meeting a celebrity. I wanted to tell you about when I first (and last) met you.

It was a tiny bookstore in my hometown of Louisville, KY; probably 1990. There was an ad in the paper that William Shatner was having a signing, so my mother, brother and I went (probably carrying my copy of TekWar). Star Trek was our family show; one of my earliest memories is space adventures on a tiny black and white TV in the basement. The event was chaotic; in hindsight it probably wasn’t very many people, but we were crammed in between mystery and self help, and everyone was shouting and waving for attention. Suddenly, there was William Shatner standing on a table, truly larger than life, and trying to bring some order in a booming voice. I don’t remember the words very well, something about how we were all rather silly for coming, and ending with the infamous catchphrase “get a life”. It was all over in about 15 minutes, and my brother and I were left standing there holding headshots and wondering what exactly had even happened.

My mother was somewhat angry. She told me recently that you looked straight at her when you said to “get a life”! But as a kid I didn’t think “a life” was something you had to acquire, so that photo was very treasured for some time anyway. It was pinned to my wall. I secretly signed the back, pretending it was a real autograph.

As I got older, I met a few other celebrities, and then even more. The more time passed, the less I was sure that I’d put my faith in the right person (or whether I should’ve put faith in any of them). I didn’t forgive myself for being quite absurd and precious about a photo, and I wasn’t sure I forgave this Mr. Shatner for being so sure what kind of person I was once I understood what he meant. For a while, I was angry with him. He’d pop up here and there, and I’d wonder a little what sort of person he was now; but didn’t find out. But, apparently, I never could part with that photo.

Now, I think I might’ve been right to hold on to the idea of it. It was Misha Collins’ fault, since I heard William Shatner was on Twitter (quelle surprise) when I heard he was talking about “us” (GISHWHES). So I spoke to this person I no longer had any idea of, and he answered. If he was interested in my life now, then it would have been unfair not to take interest in his. So I started to seek him out. I won’t say that the “Get a Life” documentary changed my life, but it changed my idea of who William Shatner was, what my fandom meant, and pushed me to try again in earnest to take up film again. Now having spoken to you about charity – I think, Mr. Shatner, that you are a better person now than you or anyone else is likely to give you credit for. Certainly better than I had given you credit for, even when as a child I thought there was something sacred about a glossy 8×10. There’s nothing any of us could aspire to more than to keep asking questions and caring about the answers, to have the courage to keep reinventing ourselves instead of letting others invent us, and to try to use whatever boons we have in life to improve the lives we touch while we’re here. A life IS something we have to acquire; something we have to build and fight for and make count. And we should never let our good or bad assumptions about others – or ourselves – prevent us from doing so to the fullest.

So instead of trying to say the “right” thing here, I’m trying to say the true thing. If I can’t tell you in person, then hopefully I’ve told you here. I missed Shatner’s World twice (live in JAX and in theaters) both times because I couldn’t stop working, so I just felt quite bad about not supporting it (and that I missed out). No matter who gets chosen, I hope I get to “meet you” again some time, and maybe get that photo signed for real. I hear you’re worried about drunken hecklers, and so I can offer this – I don’t drink, and you’ve more than earned my defense from any such abuse (whatever I can offer, being 5’6” and generally non-threatening). And I will certainly forgive you that I never heard back about my application to your GISHWHES team. Or maybe I’ll have to take it to Whats-his-name and have him do it… but now I can see that photo like I did as a child again, as something special that represents a person I’m glad to have encountered in the world.
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The LEGO Movie, creativity, and the building blocks of art

A confession. You probably heard a lot of people tell you “OMG that movie was amazing” before you went. You probably doubted it, because you’ve been burned before. A LOT. Maybe you even felt tempted to find something to dislike just so you didn’t feel like a sheep. Well, go on and whistle for the border collie, because my confession is…a movie about LEGOs made me cry.

There’s a lot to love straight off the bat. It’s immediately fun. The animation is super nifty, detailed and technically astounding*; it really looks like it was done with stop-motion and it gives it a charming, handmade feel. It’s very much a kids’ movie, not because of the subject, but in that it has the qualities of a child’s brain. Its landscape is visually riotous, jokes fire off at lightning speed in a slightly non-sequitur pastiche, and its logic doesn’t require the approval of outside observers. It’s funny, fast, and smart; the writing is really strong and on-target. It’s got a great celebrity cast who bring fantastic voice acting skills to the table. This is important, because it’s a different skill set, and many animated films have suffered from poor casting. But most importantly, this film has a message that speaks to nearly everyone about the nature of creativity; and I think that’s why it’s really been a blockbuster.

[SPOILERS AHOY, READ AFTER SEEING FILM]

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Failing with Style: Lessons from Toy Story

Possibly a controversial opinion, but I don’t think Pixar has made a film that was more elegant and complete than Toy Story. They’ve addressed bigger ideas, in more ambitious settings; but Toy Story is the building blocks of many of their other stories without any fat.

If you haven’t seen Toy Story, I’m at your door with the DVD* right now. So let’s not bother with recapping the storyline. The film is obviously built around the conflict between Woody and Buzz. Woody is a catastrophist with low self-esteem, and Buzz is the polar opposite: an egotist who is so wrapped up in his own world that he’s basically the only toy who DOESN’T know he’s a toy. Naturally, all the circumstances aside, characters who are opposites tend to clash.

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SDCC Badge Pre-reg and the “Vegas Effect”

Comic-con has been putting out a slow trickle of information on badge sales for 2014, and as the actual convention creeps closer the anticipation and stress level for the actual sale has only built exponentially. For me, aside from its other perks Comic-con is where I see (and in some cases met) the majority of my friends and the only convention I still go to for fun. I’m pretty dang invested in getting a badge (and I really wish I’d tried for Pro). The year they put the next year’s badges on sale at the con, I stood in an obscene line and got shut out of Preview Night – only to have friends breeze through a painless online reg later on. I’ve been through tough times with Comic-con. But they continue to give me a series of small heart attacks, like the announcement today that the badge registration waiting room will be randomized.

EVERYBODY PANIC AND FREAK OUT. …But why?

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Sherlock S3 E1: The Empty Hearse

Sherlock is, overall, an unconventional series. They like to drop breadcrumbs early on that are easy to miss, threads that eventually tie into a later plot element and only then make sense. This is part of what makes the show so clever, but that always leaves them on the knife edge of leaving too many viewers too confused, or giving the impression that events occur out of left field. Personally, I think it takes me three passes with anything complex to really get a handle on my opinion, and Sherlock is no exception. One for the heart (gut emotional reactions), one for the brain (evaluating what’s really happening), and one for the mechanism that makes it tick. I have to say that Sherlock Series 3 is the one I’m most conflicted about, and I think it will take another full pass through the season to really line up my thoughts and draw a conclusion.

I was initially in agreement with the fandom consensus that the case in the episode was too light, but on viewing #3 I feel less so. There’s some very deliberate structuring to make story elements overlap, so that you simply don’t register that one storyline is concurrent with another. They’re laying down the groundwork for one event while your attention is focused on another (e.g., always read the headlines on papers characters are reading). They’ve got a lot to pack into this episode, too: Sherlock’s return and the consequences of that, the question of “how he did it” lingering from the S2 cliffhanger, the events in John’s life in the intervening period, two cases, AND some subtle but critical setup for following episodes. That is a whole lot of pieces of furniture to move around. On top of that, there’s the “emotional baggage” of the characters AND the viewers that needs shifting after the two-year hiatus.

And it’s a bit of a Herculean task. [SPOILERS - ASSUMES YOU HAVE SEEN THE EPISODE] Continue reading

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Sleepy Hollow is the most progressive show you may not be watching

I was watching Sleepy Hollow this past Monday and at the end of a scene was struck by something. There were five characters in this scene, and only one of them was white. (He’s also British and a man out of time, but I don’t think that quite qualifies him as a minority.) This is a pretty remarkable occurrence on primetime network TV.

It was a brief flash of thought that led me to be pretty mystified why I haven’t heard much discussion about how remarkable this show really is. What better day to bring it up than Martin Luther King Jr. Day, which also happens to be their season finale? Does it take people who can suspend their disbelief enough to accept a Revolutionary era soldier (who works for the Masons) was resurrected in modern day by witchcraft so he could fight the Apocalypse to be okay with a black female co-lead? Okay, maybe not; Kerry Washington has been winning awards for Scandal. But there’s no denying that most TV is still staggeringly lacking in diversity of all types.

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6 Improbable Things, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying & Believe in Success

Alice laughed: “There’s no use trying,” she said; “one can’t believe impossible things.”
“I daresay you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen. “When I was younger, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.  – Charles Dodgson, Alice in Wonderland (or that time the Queen sounds really positive out of context)

I spend a lot of time alone working late into the night. And when I say “a lot of time”, I really mean very nearly all my time. I don’t have a boss to tell me what to do. I don’t have a partner who works with me. Having your own business is 24/7 and a huge responsibility that’s hard to walk away from, even when you need to for a while. I don’t necessarily recommend this lifestyle, but everyone’s had times where they have to live that way – for finals, for a major project. So aside from more streaming television and perky J-pop/hard rock than should be legal, how do I keep going?

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Cavalcade of Canadians: The Actor-Spotting Trivia Game

Yes, at long last, it’s the rules to the infamous game I’ve been playing forever, but named a few years ago. I’m writing them up because a few friends thought this was an actual thing that I did not invent (in contrast to the ones who just assumed I was nuts). So please, read on. Don’t leave me to play alone. When I’m sewing in the middle of the night no one can hear me call points. Let’s make it an actual thing.

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CAVALCADE OF CANADIANS: The Actor-Spotting Trivia Game
Fun for the Whole Family (If your family consists of Canadian casting directors)
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Sherlock S3 E2: The Sign of Three

[CONTAINS SPOILERS] This episode has already been a point of contention among the frenzied mass of Sherlock fans who waited two years for a new series. I’m not sure any of us can even process new information fully after so much time disassembling and reassembling every iota of S1 and S2. But I’ll say at the start that I’m taking up the middle ground – I like it, AND it’s a bit incoherent and fragmented. For the sake of argument I’d rather focus on some of the negatives, since I’ve seen more of the positive.

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Edgar Wright is a runner in the sitcom of my life, & 2014 is the year of keeping promises to strangers

2013 was a strange year for me. That’s saying something if you’re used to asking Deadpool if he’d like that in a bag. Besides, in 2012 I was on a Norwegian TV show. I didn’t think the weird scale went much higher. But amongst other things that pushed the needle up this year, last spring I entered a geek awards show on a lark, and got a nomination for a category award and an invite to a ceremony in Hollywood.

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