Monthly Archives: October 2014

From Amora to Zatanna: October

Finally, comic fans, the discussion you have all been waiting for! The Hawkeye Initiative! In the blog I posted two months ago, I discussed the comic art trend dubbed “broken back” women. Many comic artists, typically male artists, have a tendency to illustrate women with anatomically incorrect bodies. The up-to-date tumblr blog known as “Escher Girls” is definitely a page to check out for more discussion about this trend, especially if you’re looking for a particularly overused body trope, such as “helicopter legs” and “serpentine torso.”

From this trend came another, incredibly humorous trend dubbed the Hawkeye Initiative. Before getting into the components, let me try to contextualize this a bit in comic history. It started with the arrival of  the first Avenger’s cinematic poster. In this original promo poster (which is not incredibly hard to find), all the men are facing forward and appear ready for battle, whereas Black Widow, the only woman in the Avenger’s roster at the time, had her back turned towards the camera as she suggestively looks over her shoulder. This was most likely a publicity stunt to infuse the poster with more sexual appeal, and what has more sex appeal the Scarlett Johansson’s bottom?! Naturally, not all comic fans were amused and the promotional poster was quickly changed.

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But from this original poster came the birth of a fantastic trend many of us in the comic community have come to love, and some have even cosplayed! The Hawkeye Initiative began with the character Hawkeye being redrawn in the various suggestive and sexualized poses that his female counterparts are typically drawn in. While Hawkeye is the primary hero placed in these hilarious poses, it has extended out to include the entire Avenger’s cast, plus many heroes from the DC universe.

But on a serious note, why is it that we laugh at these hilarious portrayals of men and not of women? unnamedWhy is it acceptable for a heroine to have her back broken to appear more attractive? These questions have been sparked thanks, in part, to the Hawkeye Initiative and has slowly made the comic community realize the unfair treatment of women characters in comparison to men characters. Perhaps this is also why both DC and Marvel have been looking for more women interested in writing or illustrating comics to jump aboard their creative teams. Now is my chance!

If you want to see more images pertaining to the Hawkeye Initiative, a quick Google search or tumble through Tumblr should yield some hilarious, yet poignant, results. As for me? I’m off to Day 1 of Stan Lee’s Comikaze. Sandman’s Death has entered the building. Until next month!

Literary Paraphernalia: Bookish Crocheting Patterns

I’m a hooker.

That is, I like to crochet. Crocheting looks like knitting to the untrained eye, but while knitting uses needles, crocheting uses hooks.

Hence the term hooker. I don’t knit. I don’t play with needles. I hook. And I like the things I make, like this capitalist pig I made for my friend who hates his job:

Complete with money sack.
Complete with money sack.

My love for hooking and books are going to unite in this post. I have one quarter of school left until I graduate, and I know that I can’t be idle for long. So while researching some cook crocheting projects for myself, I decided to put together a list of awesome literary crocheting and share it with all of you.

Smaug from The Hobbit

You have to supply your own treasure.

This project might be a little ambitious to start with, but heck, it’s awesome. Who doesn’t want their own Smaug? I kind of wish I could insert Benedict Cumberbatch’s voice into it, somehow.

Sunflower Bookmarks

I have a thing for sunflowers.

Sunflowers are one of my favorite flowers, and they make really cute bookmarks, too. This project is also a lot less ambitious and easier for a beginning hooker to execute.

Book Tote

I’m in the middle of making this pattern, actually.

This pattern calls it a shopping bag, but all my shopping has to do with books, so I call it a book shopping bag. This pattern is easy to make and can carry a whole bunch of books.

I Don’t Know if I like 1996’s Romeo and Juliet

You know, the one with this guy:

You may know him from a few movies. I think he was in…Deception? Inception? Something like that. There was also the thing with the boat. Let’s just say, this guy likes swimming with the fishes.

And this chick from that one really cool 90’s T.V. show:

She also played a Star in Stardust. She’s known for wearing white gowns and falling form the heavens.

And the ever-immortal Paul Rudd playing Juliet’s other love interest (bonus: he’s in a spacesuit):

He seriously hasn’t aged a day.

The movie also had, what I considered as a 13 year old girl at the time, the coolest song by Garbage ever:

As an adult, I’ve found the 1996 Baz Luhrmann directed version of Romeo and Juliet available for streaming on Amazon.Com and I decided to revisit it, 18 years later, and see if I still enjoyed the movie as much as I did as a teen.

NaNoWriMo: Writing A Novel In Thirty Days

It’s that time of year again—NaNoWriMo is around the corner.

For those of you who don’t know, NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month, is a national commitment for anyone who’s ever thought “I want to write a novel” to, well, get to work on that novel. From November 1st to November 30th, participants will work tirelessly to complete 50,000 words before the month is up. Because sometimes the best motivation is a deadline breathing down your neck.

Last year, the bloggers at The Poetics Project made a pact to participate together. And, together, we failed pretty miserably. This year, we have no such pact. Not because of the failure—it’ll take more than one failed attempt to deter me—but because I’m a realist. As much as I’d like to rise up out of the ashes of November, a manuscript in hand, for me, it’s just not in the cards.

Here’s where I tell you how busy I am: I have two part-time jobs, I attend grad school full-time, I’m a project manager in my program (which means I do a lot of work—for free—in order to put together a writing conference in Portland this January), I have a publicity internship at a local publishing house, I write for and edit this blog. I also, on occasion, find the need to drink water and eat, to shower, to escape from my cave-like apartment and grab a drink with friends for the sake of my own sanity.

I’d like to think I’m super woman. That I can forego sleep in order to squeeze in time for writing a 50,000 word manuscript. But, if I’m being honest, there’s only so many directions one person can pull themselves in.

However, that doesn’t mean you, dear reader, shouldn’t give NaNoWriMo a shot. Sometimes we have to set goals for ourselves—even seemingly unreachable ones—in order to push our minds and spirits. In order to see what we are capable of. NaNoWriMo can be a great case study for that. It is possible, with lots of planning, to reach a 50,000 word count in thirty days.

Doing the math, a person would need to write a little over 1,600 words each day, for thirty days, to reach a total of 50,000 words. At first, that number—1,600—might seem large and scary, but remember, this isn’t an essay for class. It’s a novel. Those 1,600 words don’t have to contain a thesis. They don’t have to sum up all your main points, with clearly listed examples and sources. On any given day, those 1,600 words can be different. They can be sad, happy, dramatic, humorous—they can be inspired by your own life story or take place on the planet Oasis, where an army of humans have begun to colonize…

Point being, the work will be grueling. It will take motivation and dedication, but the work shouldn’t be like pulling teeth. It’s your novel; enjoy it.

So how do you make it happen?

1. Eat, and eliminate distractions.

With a time-crunch, it’s easy to forget simple things, like eating. But before you start writing, it’s important to take the time to nourish your body. Once you actually begin writing, it’s easy to be pulled away. Your phone rings. Netflix calls to you. Your eyes grow heavy. Your stomach is grumbling so loud you’ve started talking back to it. Whatever the distraction, do your best to prepare for it. Make some coffee. Have an outline. The more you prepare, the easier the actual writing will be.

The Amazing Story Generator

I’m not much of a shopper. Ask my little sister, who tries to get me to go clothes shopping with her at least once a month, in which I decline or sit outside of the stores with a book while she tries to get my opinion on clothes she’s trying on (generally to not buy anything I say looks good or that I like on her).

But I like books. Drop me off in a used bookshop or a Barns & Noble and say goodbye to me for a few hours. I may not have a passion for shoes, but I do have a passion for books.

I found this cool little book that generates writing prompts. Not just a few, but a ton. It’s called The Amazing Story Generator.

Thousands? I'm in.
Thousands? I’m in.

I opened the book up and liked what I saw. The book generates the thousands of prompts by combining three elements – a starting situation, a protagonist, and the driving action of the story. By randomly flipping through this book, one can generate several prompts and never get the same writing prompt twice. Here’s a few example prompts from me randomly flipping through the book:

While dog-sitting,/ a clown in training/ is tormented by vengeful spirits.

Following a disastrous job interview,/ a gold prospector/ is transported to another galaxy.

Upon breaking a lifelong promise,/ a big-time weather reporter/ is elected mayor of Chicago.

Some of these generated story premises work better than others, but overall, they’re all fun and a great way to challenge yourself, as a writer, to literally write anything. I decided to give that theory a go and do a quick write-up on a randomly generated plot.

Right. Okay, coffee, bad comedy, and time travel. I got this.
Right. Okay, coffee, bad comedy, and time travel. I got this.

Making Writing Sweet and Simple: A Lesson In Conciseness

If you’re a student whose taken any English course, then chances are you’ve probably learned how to bullshit. In writing courses, students are given word- and page-length requirements, but sometimes, we don’t need all of those pages or words in order to get to the point.

So what do we do? We stretch things out. We restate things in a “new” way. We plop in a few quotes we found while researching. Or if you’re crafty, like some of the creative folk I attended college with, you do sneaky things like changing the font size of all punctuation so sentences suddenly become longer, and then you pray to God that your teacher doesn’t break out a ruler. Or isn’t a type nerd.

In the “real” world—the one outside of academia—getting to the point is preferred; in fact, it’s applauded. If there’s anything people hate, it’s their time being wasted.

As an undergrad, I took a lot of technical writing courses as part of a certificate program. There’s nothing like staring at a document, one sentence at a time, with a classroom of other students, and examining every word for its meaning, its use—deciding whether or not it serves a purpose or is just filler. It may seem mundane, but technical writers get paid sixty thousand plus a year in order to make sure writing is clear. To make sure that instructions and warnings in manuals won’t get a company sued and will limit incoming calls to customer support. In other words, technical writers help companies save money. Not only in potential legal fees, but in printing costs—tighter writing takes up less space. Less ink, less paper. And these hyper-detailed, sentence level word skills (yeah, that was a mouthful) translate into many other writing fields—whether you write creatively, edit others’ pieces, or work in marketing.

A Literary Theme Park

For all of us book-lovers out there, Boston’s latest amusement park was literally made just for us. What am I talking about? Well, Boston is building a tourism industry around its literary history, hoping to attract tourists. This also includes a literature theme park.

This has been a dream of mine since high school – I’ve even written papers on it. Although, I should probably mention, my high school literary theme park was based on Dante’s Inferno‘s levels of hell.

These rides would probably not be that fun.

As long as Boston doesn’t create any Dante-based rides, as I did, I think this theme park would be a great place for the whole family. I can just picture the rides now:

Literary Paraphernalia: Bookish Rings

Rings are my favorite kind of jewelry. Unlike bracelets, they don’t snag on things or make writing and typing awkward. And unlike necklaces, rings seem more versatile. Most of my rings can be worn with any of the clothes in my closet.

Unique rings are not always easy to come by. Sure, you could grab something trendy and cheap at Target or Forever 21. But so will hundreds—if not thousands—of others. And sometimes it’s nice to stand out.

Etsy is a great place to find unique, literary jewelry—whether it’s for yourself or a loved one with a fancy for books (the holidays, after all, aren’t too far off). Below’s my own wishlist. If you want to see more literary finds, be sure to follow us on Pinterest!

Vintage Little Prince Ring

Sterling Silver Book Ring

Comic Book Ring

Little Known Literary Terms

Want to analyze literature like a professor or write like a canonized author? I have a secret for you. Being able to analyze or write great works is like a recipe – it’s a combination of things that comes together to make one great meal if done right. What is this recipe?

One part gumption.
One part practice.
One part knowledge.

Mix these three things together, sprinkle liberally with salt, and there you have it – the ability to analyze or write great works. The end.

Oh, wait, I have to write more? Alright. So I can’t help you with gumption. Either you want it and you’ll work for it, or you won’t.

Practice is just setting aside time, turning off Netflix, and reading and writing a lot. A whole lot. More than you think you need to, and doing it every day. And, you know, maybe at the end of five, ten, fifteen years or even a lifetime, you’ll have pumped out some great literature that will be studied for eons to come, and probably more than a few great pieces of work along the way that many will appreciate. Or perhaps you’ll have a huge volume of notes on one great literary piece, like Moby Dick and have studied it from every possible angle, only to compose a book of criticism greater in size than the actual book itself.

And, finally, knowledge. This I can help you with. When I say knowledge, I’m referring to a very specific kind of knowledge. You don’t need to know how to bake a cake or fly a ship to mars, but you do need to know how to recognize different literary devices used in great literary works. Now, we all have some basics that have followed us from our high school classes into adulthood. I’m betting almost everyone knows what an allusion is (or, a reference from within a written work to another work, generally literary in nature, but can be sociological or cultural as well) or onomatopoeia (or, when a word represents and sounds like a sound – think of the word buzz or drip and the way they sound). We can all name the protagonist (or main character) of Harry Potter and other stories, and we can point and say who the antagonist (or character opposing the main character) of the same stories are.

Classic literature, like any works from Shakespeare, Spencer, Sidney (I’m on an S roll, don’t mind me) from the Early Modern Period (also called the Renaissance) from 1558-1603, were taught many rhetoric and literary devices in grade and middle school that many of us entering graduate programs in English haven’t heard of, let alone the general grade and middle school population.

This post is here to drop a little knowledge on you, and when I say a little, I do mean a little. I can’t cover an entire rhetoric course in one post, but I can share some literary terminology I find especially interesting. This is for you, reader that looked at a poem or play or something and went “Oh hey, they’re doing this cool thing with language, I wonder if it has a name?” because it totally does.

Anthropomorphism

Definition: Assigning human characteristics to an animal. Think Aslan from The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis or any of the animals from Animal Farm by George Orwell.

On Tom Hanks, and Giving “Nobodys” A Chance

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So this happened. And by this, I mean Tom Hanks happened. The New Yorker has published the actor’s debut into the literary world: “Alan Bean Plus Four.”

My initial reaction? To strangle a puppy. “This makes me want to strangle a puppy,” I told friends. “A puppy, guys.” It seems like every celebrity out there is venturing into publishing—Tina Fey, Jane Lynch, Hillary Duff, James Franco, Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi, Chelsea Handler, Mindy Kaling, Teri Hatcher, Brad Paisley, Lauren Conrad, Ricky Martin, Lena Dunham, B.J. Novak. Does that list sound exhaustive already? Because it’s not even the tip of the iceberg.

And you know what? Not all of these book are bad. In fact, some of them are quite good. Lena Dunham’s book Not That Kind of Girl has been getting a ton of press. Whatever qualms you may have about the actress, writer, and director, the girl can write. B.J. Novak’s children’s book The Book With No Pictures has been a hit with kids and an interesting take on a genre drowning in picture books. But these celebrities, and others, like Mindy Kaling, Tina Fey, or Amy Poehler, were already writing their own stuff. They’ve written for television shows, their own stand-up routines, college comic strips.

With that said, I gave Tom Hank’s “Alan and Bean Plus Four” a shot. But, it’s just not very good. And I say that, with all the love in the world for Tom Hanks. Tom Hanks the actor. Forrest Gump. That Tom Hanks.

Hanks starts out his story by writing “Travelling to the moon was way less complicated this year than it was back in 1969, as the four of us proved, not that anyone gives a whoop.” And as I read on, I found it more and more difficult to give “a whoop.” His prose is clunky. Each character flat, too many details given away all at once. Or at times, just plain awkward and drab, like “Steve Wong works at Home Depot, so has access to many hammers.”

Like when your dad is trying to be cool in front of your friends and says something like “Of course, we were all chuffed, as the English say, that we’d made the trek and maxed out the memory on our iPhones with iPhotos. But questions arose about what we were going to do upon our return, apart from making some bitchin’ posts on Instagram.” Only, it’s not your dad. It’s Tom Hanks. And that makes it even more awkward.