Bad Days

We all get them.  Days when we just want to tell the whole universe “nope” and make it all stop for a few minutes.  Or maybe that’s just me.

Whatever your experience of a bad day is, we all get them, and we all have different methods for dealing with them.

  Chocolate is one of my personal favorites.  Social interaction with people I know and trust can help occasionally too.

But the one way of fixing a bad day that I’ve always used, and that has always worked for at least a moment, is words.  Specifically, other people’s words.  There are quotations pasted all over my childhood bedroom (unless someone’s been redecorating since I left) from Bruce Lee and JK Rowling and ancient proverbs and my cousin and pretty much anywhere else I could think of.

Maybe I should start doing that in my dorm–I’ve been finding loads more quotes lately.  My roommate will be confused.  We already have a quote wall for the more ridiculous of the things we say–my favorite is “Boys lower GPAs.”

Some of the quotes I use are amusing.  Some are hopeful.  Some are simply promises that someone made that I’ve decided to apply to myself.  Some might not make sense to anyone but me.

They all matter, though, the way any grouping of words with heart and meaning behind them matters when they leave their creator and find homes in the minds of others.  They all have power.

I’ve compiled some of my favorites here, for anyone who needs a laugh or an extra reason to “keep swimming” today.

“I swear by my pretty floral bonnet, I will end you.” (Firefly)

“Stories of imagination tend to upset those without one.”  (Terry Pratchett)

“I ain’t grouchy…I just have a low threshold for stupidity.” (Stormlight Archive)

“In the beginning there was nothing, which exploded.”  (Terry Pratchett)

“I don’t believe there’s an absolute future.  I don’t believe we can’t change anything.  I don’t believe Loki can’t change.  But I do know he won’t change if you stick him in a big box marked “Loki” and nail the lid down.”  (Loki: Agent of Asgard)

“I think it’s impossible to really understand somebody, what they want, what they believe, and not love them the way they love themselves.”  (Ender’s Game)

“It is possible to live with depression without being consumed by it.”  (John Green)

“You ask why I smile, Goodman Mennis?  Well, the Lord Ruler thinks he has claimed laughter and joy for himself.  I’m disinclined to let him do so.  This is one battle that doesn’t take very much effort to fight.” (Mistborn)

“The purpose of a storyteller is not to tell you what to think, but to give you questions to think upon.” (Stormlight Archive)

“Being a hero is way more than facing bad guys, Gwensday…sometimes you gotta face real life.”  (Spider-Gwen)

“Fairy tales are more than true–not because they tell us dragons exist, but because they tell us dragons can be beaten.”  (Neil Gaiman, paraphrasing G.K. Chesterton)

“I will remember those who have been forgotten.”  (Stormlight Archive)

“Doesn’t matter what the press says.  Doesn’t matter what the politicians or the mobs say.  Doesn’t matter if the whole country decides that something wrong is something right.  This nation was founded on one principle above all else:  the requirement that we stand up for what we believe in, no matter the odds or the consequences.  When the mob and the press and the whole world tell you to move, your job is to plant yourself like a tree beside the river of truth, and tell the whole world–‘No, you move.’”  (Captain America)

“…because nerds like us are allowed to be unironically enthusiastic about stuff… Nerds are allowed to love stuff, like jump-up-and-down-in-the-chair-can’t-control-yourself love it.  Hank, when people call people nerds, mostly what they’re saying is ‘you like stuff.’  Which is just not a good insult at all.  Like, ‘you are too enthusiastic about the miracle of human consciousness’.”  (John Green)

 Those are some of my favorites.  What are yours?

Calamity and Related Events

Brandon Sanderson released his last book in the Reckoner’s Trilogy this week.  I was lucky enough to get a signed copy (after a looooong wait, but while waiting I got to poke through Winter Soldier comics in the graphic novel section, so that was okay) and read it.

Absolutely brilliant.

 Some ten years ago, various people suddenly became superpowered.  They all ended up as supervillains.  Since at that point they acted more like a force of nature than anything else, they then proceeded to destroy the basic infrastructure of society and kill a lot of the still-normal people.  Now they’re in charge of everything, when they aren’t fighting each other.

Most of the normal people just try to live their own lives despite all that.  Others end up working for the supervillains, who are called Epics.  Then there are the few who study Epics, figure out weaknesses, and kill them.

Yay!  Murder!

That’s the basic situation when the series starts out.  Things are a bit more complicated by the time we reach Calamity, naturally.

The series as a whole is great, raising questions about free will, redemption, what it actually means to be a person, and why fighting to make the world a nicer place is worth all the trouble.  The handful of regular people who believe that someday there will be good Epics are a pretty good example of humanity’s incredible capacity for hope.

Speaking of that handful of hopeful people, know how they identify themselves?  They wear a pendant shaped like a “stylized S”.

Sound familiar?

As for Calamity itself (the book, not the thing in the book), the story is great.  It wraps up those questions the series brings up, ties up the plot with some surprising twists (which leave a couple new questions unanswered, because there’s always another secret), and keeps the characters growing and developing without changing them to the point of being unrecognizable.  It also takes us to the International Space station and plays with multiverse theory, because why not?  Science is cool.

The characters are flawed people, but they generally try to do the “right thing,” however they happen to define that.  Which is cool.  In recent years, villains and anti-heroes have become more and more popular in all kinds of fiction, and the extra dimensions they can add to a story means that the popularity makes some sort of sense.   But it’s refreshing to get a story with heroes who are actually heroic (or reformed from being unheroic) rather than being expected to support protagonists whose morality is ambiguous at best.  There’s still layers and complexity to the characters, they still have questions and make mistakes, but they are actually trying to do good things and I like that.

Besides, no anti-hero would come up with as many hilariously terrible metaphors as David Charleston does.

I can’t say much else about the story without rambling forever, so I’ll wrap up here.  Just read the series.  Even if you don’t like YA fiction.  It’s good, it’s amusing, and it will make you feel better about the state of the universe.  What’s not to love?

Absurdity

We’re going to have to go to just one blog post a week now, officially.  I have too much homework–especially with midterms.  I’m trying the Sherlock Holmes memory palace trick, which apparently some ancient Greek invented, to try and help with studying (my interest in the memory palace may or may not be associated with a certain British tv series that I may or may not have started watching during the occasional free moment).  We’ll see if it works.

In other news, my t-shirt design for Coldplay is up, along with a lot of other designs by very gifted people.  You can check it out here.

Okay!  News out of the way!

Ridiculous, bizarre, and especially absurd statements and events are some of my favorite things, especially when they come in the form of a story.  I can list all sorts of absurdly brilliant stories, but since I’ve mentioned most of them in past posts, I won’t right now.  Except for Brandon Sanderson’s Alcatraz series, which is ridiculous in every sort of unexpected way (breaking things is a powerful form of magic, for instance) and earlier today had me laughing out loud on the bus to class. (The day before that, I got into a great discussion about Sanderson’s Cosmere with some complete strangers.  Sanderson, man.)  The last book in the Alcatraz series comes out in September.  In an unrelated story, I’ll have survived a full two decades in September.

Ridiculous stories and statements are great because, first of all, they’re humorous.  Laughter is good for health, and laughing at something you enjoy is extra healthy.  The world could use a bit more of that sort of amusement.

Even if a ridiculous story isn’t immediately funny, though, it’s still important.  The juxtaposition of two completely different things, a common tool for any sort of ridiculousness, pulls thoughts in different directions than they normally go.  That can lead to some pretty deep insights into the human condition, among other things (being humans, though, most people are mainly interested in the human condition insights).  That’s important.  Thinking in different ways, gaining new insights, those are essential if people are going to grow, to become better.  The absurd story is excellent at helping people to do that–just look at Terry Pratchett.  Dozens of books about a flat planet on four elephants on a giant space turtle, and all of them had something special to say, some way of changing their readers.

Yes, bizarre, ridiculous, absurd, insert adjective here stories are great.  But I never feel like I’m telling one properly.  Or at all.

Anyone else feel that way?  Do you think it’s because the humor is coming from your own brain so you expect it?  Or do you have any advice on increasing the ridiculousness in a story without destroying it?  Let me know in the comments.  Typing into a void is no fun.

Is ridiculousness a word?  Spellcheck isn’t trying to make me change it.

Even if it isn’t, it is now.

Oh, and happy Valentine’s Day! Or, as one of my high school teachers liked to call it, “the day when the tinkle of broken hearts echoes through the hallways.”

Let’s Talk About Gwen Stacy

The Gwen Stacy of Marvel Comics’ Earth-65, specifically.

She’s a relatively new superhero, from an alternate universe where the radioactive spider bit her instead of Peter Parker.  She is awesome.  Here’s why.

In most of the Marvel universes, Gwen is Peter’s love interest, tragically lost as a result of his being Spider-Man, before he and Mary Jane get together.  Great story, but it doesn’t give Gwen many opportunities to shine as her own character.

This Gwen does shine–very, very brightly.  The series Radioactive Spider-Gwen shows us a Gwen Stacy who is sassy, irresponsible, obsessed with drumming, and constantly makes mistakes but constantly tries to fix them.  She acts like a twenty-year-old, and actually looks like one too–Robbi Rodrguez does a great job showing her lanky limbs and messy hair.  If she weren’t blonde, we’d be twins.

Her sass is, of course, a staple of the spider-hero story.  As a music fanatic, however, she puts her own spin on it, singing whatever song pops into her head during a fight whenever she isn’t insulting her opponent.

Why are spider-heroes always so sassy?  My theory is that putting on the mask lets them show a personality that society or circumstances cause them to hide.  Earth-616 Peter Parker was bullied and had trouble talking to people, and so when he became Spider-Man he started to express whatever thoughts popped into his mind.  Gwen’s situation is different:  she felt overwhelmed by her responsibilities and being Spider-Woman was liberating.  Another reason for the humor could be simply that it distracts and annoys opponents, making them more vulnerable.  It’s probably some mix of the two.

The rest of Earth-65 is as fascinating and different as Gwen Stacy is, though I’m still trying to wrap my head around a certain blind lawyer working for the Kingpin.  Harry Osborn is much the same as ever, but Samantha Wilson is Captain America, the Black Cat’s backstory is completely different, and as for Peter Parker…well.

The traditional Spider-Man story shows a boy who gets bullied and is able to get past it–with the help of some superpowers, of course.  This version of the story reveals a darker possibility of what can happen when someone is hurt for years and doesn’t find a way to work it out.  And that’s all I can say about it right now.

Darkness aside, the Spider-Gwen comics are great, with lots of energy, excellent art, compelling characters, and a female superhero who doesn’t look like she’s had several plastic surgeries.

I’m having a blast reading about her.