What have they done to Tulip?

All right, first of all, no, this is not about the casting. Shut up about the casting. Of Hermione, too, please. Get over it.

I’m concerned about the writing. More specifically, the changes Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg said they were making vs. the actual portrayal I’m watching. The difference between what they think they did and what I think they did is pretty vast.

There was an interview they did with ComicBookResources.com, in which they talked about how much stronger they were going to make Tulip than in the book. How, in the book she was defined by her relationship to Jesse, but we’re going to make her so much more than that.

After two episodes, we’ve mostly watched Tulip stalk and harass Jesse. How is that not being defined by her relationship to a man? In the book, she was broken-hearted, but she was strong. She continued on, lived her life, and yes, when she had the opportunity to reconnect with him, she did so–guardedly, because she intended to finally learn the mystery that had hurt her so deeply. She is a strong, independent, fierce woman in the book. She’s sexually confident, proud, intelligent, and calls everyone on their shit. I was offended by the notion that this character I had grown up wanting to be like was somehow not strong or feminist. But I was disgusted to see what they apparently consider to be stronger and more worthy.

Oh, a strong woman wouldn’t just let a man break up with her, the show seems to be saying. She’d follow him around and mess with his head and kidnap him and grind against his crotch. What the hell?

And the scenes in which she has interacted with other characters didn’t make her look strong and fascinating so much as obnoxious and potentially sociopathic. The poker game scene, when some guy seems to be giggling about the comment that her uncle is a drunk, so she spins some awful tale about vehicular homicide and then laughs how it’s not true but it is funny? How does this make her likable or compelling, let alone a stronger female character than we had before?

Why do so many male writers think that to write a strong female character, you just make her a crappy person who doesn’t seem burdened by classically feminine traits like empathy or kindness?

What have they done to Preacher?

Preacher was my first comic. It was my gateway drug to the world of the obsessed comic collector who visits her store every week and has to maintain a database to know which story lines are still in the longboxes and which ones have been replaced by trades. I have a giant tattoo of Jesse Custer on my back. I love Preacher.

So, I was cautiously excited about the TV series. It seemed like it would require a certain amount of emotional leeway from hardcore fans, and I am capable of granting that. After all, I’m a comic book fan! Our stories, our continuity, our universes get upended and rebooted and retold all the time. We have to be able to roll with it, or we wind up retiring from the world of active comics consumption.

Where we tend to get a little riled up, though, is when you mess with the characters themselves. Like Man of Steel & Batman v. Superman, for instance. I hate those movies with a fiery passion. I can tirelessly rant and rage and make fun of every stupid choice made by their creators. Because they didn’t just change stories or settings or even outcomes–they changed the characters so fundamentally that they were no longer telling stories about Superman or Lex Luthor. They were using the names and the cape and the power set and the billionaire status, but they didn’t honor the identities of the characters we know and love.

And that brings us to Preacher. I tried not to be too hard on the pilot, because hey, pilots. They’re not always great; even Joss Whedon doesn’t have the greatest track record with pilots (though the two-hour intended pilot for Firefly proves he makes amazing pilots before the network gives notes…). But I was troubled by the pilot.

Preacher is a quest story. Jesse is imbued with the power of Genesis, suddenly knows that God is real but isn’t watching over us, and becomes indignant. He’s going to find God, wherever he may be hiding, and force this all-powerful deadbeat dad to take responsibility for his creation.

Contrast this with the end of the pilot, in which the mysterious power basically just makes Jesse want to try harder at being a preacher to this crappy town full of crappy people. He’s supposed to leave this dusty toilet, not stay and fix it.

I was immediately troubled when I saw Odin Quincannon’s meat-packing plant had been relocated to Annville for the show. Jesse encounters Quincannon years later in the book. This was a bad sign to me, seeing that they had compressed years’ worth of story points and characters to build what appears to be a standing set, killing the road trip aspect of the story. You can’t go on a quest without leaving home.

But that’s part one. Stay tuned for part two: What have they done to Tulip?

Jake Amberson: time-travelling dimwit

We’ve been watching 11/22/63 on Hulu, and I will admit up front that neither my husband nor I read the book first. I have to imagine (and have been told by friends) the book’s protagonist is not such a bumbling fool, because Stephen King is not a lazy writer who would substitute actual conflict with “let’s just see how much gets screwed up by letting the main character be painfully stupid.”

He’s been screwing up royally since he went through the rabbit hole and immediately blew off the sage advice to buy a simple, dependable car that wouldn’t stand out in a crowd, then nearly got himself killed by shady bookies because he couldn’t grasp the concept of 1960 money vs. 2016 money. But whatever, that’s early–he’s still adjusting. It’s perfectly reasonable to screw up while you’re learning the ropes.

Later on, he’s been living in the past for over two years, yet he continues to make anachronistic pop culture references. He’s been there too long for it to be cute; it just seems dumb. But okay, fine, maybe they meant it to be funny, and it’s just falling flat for me.

There’s one area, though, where his idiocy fails the cute test and the okay-maybe-that-wasn’t-the-best-idea-but-he’s-learning test.

He comes from our present, a world in which domestic violence is openly discussed, so there is just no excuse for his behavior and his choices when dealing with those situations.

In 1960, he makes the admirable choice to try and save his friend’s family from their drunken, abusive father, known to have attacked and killed his ex-wife and children on Halloween night. He wants to do something to prevent this tragedy, but somehow his best idea is to offer them a night at a hotel. For some reason, this guy honestly believes that getting an abused woman and her kids out of the house on one fateful night will keep them safe for all time rather than just get them killed the next time the vicious, raging ex gets his hackles up.

I’m sorry, but we live in a time where we know better than that. His plan is idiotic, and it makes him look like a buffoon. (Even his time travel tutorial should have given him some clue this wouldn’t work, because he was trying to change the past, and supposedly the past pushes back; therefore, save them today in a temporary fashion–they will certainly die next week. But that brings up another frustrating aspect of this show: nearly every instance of the past “pushing back” seems more like just another instance of his dumbass behavior biting him in the ass.)

Which brings us to Sadie. Sadie tells him the creepy details of her abusive ex and his sexual hangups. Jake then immediately throws that privileged information in the guy’s face and laughs about it.

This is the kind of thing that gets women killed, and as a man from our present, he would know that. There is no excuse for this behavior!

One thing I appreciated this week: the doctor’s grave apology to Jake over Sadie’s facial scar. Because that’s one thing this show is getting pretty spot on. Women were treated like absolute garbage in the all-too-recent past, seen as property, and yes, it would have seemed to the doctor that being less pretty might be on a level with being dead and that he should apologize to her boyfriend for this outcome.

Maybe when I finally read the book, I’ll see that the plot actually includes the notion of time travel overwriting one’s memories of their own cultural experience. That might be the only way this story would make sense to me.

Happy Birthday, Callisto!

While I have been lucky enough to find amazing kitties through random chance, I must say that adopting a kitten from a breeder has benefits. First and foremost, you get to meet the parents (both feline and human), so you know what kind of atmosphere your new friend has been raised with. Longfellow Ragdolls is a wonderland of kitty love!

Another little benefit is that for the first time in my life, I know a sweet little friend’s birthday.

On February 11, 2015, this amazing sweetheart was born:

Baby Callisto

I met him and fell instantly in love.

In May, he came home to live with us:

Callisto Day 1

He grew up big and strong:

Callisto in the sink

Gradually made friends:

Three kitties on a bed

Charms everyone he meets:

all the love

 

He makes my world a better place every day. Happy Birthday, my tiny little Yeti. You are a delight.

I Will Always Stand with Planned Parenthood

When I was six, my parents separated, and I was taken to live with my grandparents. Over the next year while we lived there, I suffered horrible violations and indignities any time I was alone in the presence of my grandfather. When I was 11, and he tried again during a visit, I was finally brave enough to run from him and barricade myself in a room until other relatives arrived, making it safe to emerge from hiding. I managed to avoid being alone with him ever again, and I spent most of the next 20 years dealing with the damage of what he’d done to me, because a forcible early sexualization is an irrecoverable loss of childhood and sense of self.

I now see that this is why I was immediately passionate about abortion rights. When I first learned in my early teens that abortion existed and was a contentious issue, I was terrified to consider a world in which that right could be taken away from women. It was an objective concept on some levels, obviously; I was young, certainly not a sexually active person, but I was innately aware that this issue was immensely important to me and to all women.

From a tragically early age, I have been aware that there are men who think of the female body as a thing they are free to use as they please. They don’t care what we want, what we don’t want, what we feel, or whether we suffer. They feel they have the absolute right to exert their will over us, and they have no respect for our autonomy.

Anti-abortion activism is an extension of this. They see us as sinners, and they wish to treat our bodies as incubators. They don’t care what other desires, needs, or intent we may have for our own lives. They don’t care about our circumstances, our health, or our futures. They have their own will they wish to exert over us, and they won’t take no for an answer.

When I say that I stand with Planned Parenthood, an organization I have volunteered for, donated to, and relied on for healthcare over the years, this is where I’m coming from. I’m standing with an organization that respects women’s freedom to make our own decisions about when, why, and with whom we will create life. I’m standing with an organization that provides care to those most in need; indeed, that was when I relied on them heavily–when I was working a crappy job with no health insurance, and I needed an annual exam and a reliable source of birth control, they were there for me.

I don’t care what your reasons are for opposing abortion. Think about the effect of your will that you are attempting to exert on others. I don’t care if you think some reasons for abortion are less acceptable than others. If you think any are acceptable, then you have to admit you don’t want to see abortion taken away. If you wouldn’t want a rape victim to be forced to bear a child of violence and horror, you have to be pro-choice. If you wouldn’t want an abused wife to be tied permanently to her abuser who will harm the child as well, and manipulate the legal system to torment his victims in perpetuity, you have to be pro-choice. If you wouldn’t want to be told that the baby you are carrying within you is going to be born brain-dead but that legally you are obligated to carry it to term and watch it die, you have to be pro-choice.

Does that mean that you have to swallow your pride and allow that it is possible for women to have abortions without begging for your understanding and baring their souls to you so that you can try to acknowledge their position? Yes, it does. And you should think about that, too. Think about how you believe any woman’s body should ever be under your control. And then remember that you don’t have that power. You shouldn’t want that power. That power over others, to limit their choices, is never sought by decent people.

A Vegetarian (but Versatile!) Weeknight Meal

I’ve been making this meal since college, and it’s still a go-to for me. It’s incredibly flavorful and pretty, and it can easily be tailored for different crowds.

  • To make it more appealing to carnivores, add sliced steak on top–or lamb if you want to stay true to the dish’s Greek flavors.
  • If you’re cooking for gluten-free folks, just choose rice as your grain instead of quinoa or couscous.

1 cup of your choice of grain (quinoa, couscous, rice, etc.)
1 onion, medium diced
2 tomatoes, medium diced, and be sure to remove the juicy seedy bits; you want the meat of the tomatoes, not the extra moisture!
fresh spinach, washed and roughly chopped (at least one big bunch or a 10 oz. bag of baby spinach; you can use more–it cooks down very small and blends beautifully)
1 can of chickpeas, drained
garlic (I like a LOT of garlic, so I use as many cloves as I feel like peeling at the time…dealer’s choice)
the juice of 1 lemon
thyme
crumbled feta
salt & pepper

Start by chopping all your vegetables and cooking your grain according to its standard preparation.

In a large saucepan, heat some oil, then add the diced onion. Season with a little salt & pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, till softened and translucent. Add the garlic and stir.

Add the tomatoes, chickpeas, a little salt & pepper, and some thyme (I just shake the thyme over it gradually until I’m satisfied with the scent of thyme rising up in the steam). Stir, and cook until the tomatoes are starting to break down.

Add the cooked grain, stir to combine, then immediately add the spinach. Stir to distribute, then immediately squeeze or pour your lemon juice into the pan. The moisture level in the meal should be just right at this stage (because you properly prepared the tomatoes!) so that the lemon juice will steam the spinach in a delightfully flavorful way.

Turn off the heat, and stir in your feta. Finally, take a taste and add more salt & pepper and/or thyme if needed.

This recipe easily feeds four.

50 Shades of Grey

As the movie’s release date approaches, I’m noticing the expected renewal of interest in this series, but it’s pretty universally negative. Tellingly, the condemnation is primarily from the voluntarily uninformed, i.e., people who haven’t read the book. And I get it–it’s pop fiction, a so-called cultural phenomenon that seems to be aimed at sexually frustrated women, and most importantly, enough people like it that looking down on it is an acceptably cool response.

Among people who have read it, the primary criticism I’ve heard is: That is not a responsible or realistic portrayal of a BDSM relationship.

Here’s the thing, though. It’s not about a realistic and healthy BDSM relationship. SPOILER WARNING.

Continue reading 50 Shades of Grey

Lethe Sweeney, 1999-2014

LetheIn the summer of 1999, I was working at a call center. Call center jobs involve six weeks of training, so you spend a lot of time with your new hire class. One rather muscular guy surprised us a few weeks in by announcing that he’d gotten a kitten. He knew I had a cat too, so he talked to me about his new friend, then invited me over to meet him.

The kitten was tiny and rambunctiously loving, constantly all over you and in your face with affection. He was pale, nearly all fawn and white, but there were shadows in his fur that indicated he would come into a vaguely Siamese coloring down the line. The guy was calling him Claw, which I supposed was his attempt to render kitten ownership a more masculine pursuit. (I realize in telling this story that I don’t recall the guy’s name at all.)

A few weeks later, we’d gotten out of our training class and moved onto our separate work schedules, so I didn’t see many of my classmates regularly. But one day, this guy asked to see me. He said it was important.

“I hurt the kitten,” he said, his face, voice, and carriage betraying the difficulty of making this confession, the deep shame he felt. He explained that getting a kitten hadn’t really been his idea–his therapist thought having a pet might help with his “rage issues,” but the kitten was just too affectionate, too needy, always bothering him, and he had just wanted to be left alone…but you can’t communicate that to a sweet kitten…so he’d gotten angry and lashed out.

He was horrified by what he’d done, and he’d rushed the little guy to the vet, where thankfully the damage to his paw wasn’t catastrophic…but he knew he had to give the kitten up. He asked me to help him by taking Claw. Of course I said yes, and we made a plan for my next day off from work.

Because Claw is an undignified cat name by my standards, I had to choose a new name for him. With a day or two to think about it, I wanted to do right by the little guy. My kitty, Chaos, had a Greek name, so I decided right then that cats get Greek names in my household. I recalled that in the Sandman series, all the Endless have Greek names. I pulled out the books, dug through, and settled on Olethros. That was the Greek name for Destruction, the family outcast. I thought Claw’s coming to me for refuge from his first home fit that, and also, Destruction was a slight homage to his overly masculine original name.

I brought Olethros home, and the next few days were positively terrifying. I wondered if I had rescued him from one dangerous home only to deliver him to certain death, because Chaos seemed intent on murdering him. Little Olethros walked innocently up to Chaos to say hello, and Chaos cocked his head, regarded the interloper, and attacked. It was full-on Garfield-Nermal loathing, if Garfield were young, hale, and capable of ripping Nermal in half. I’d picked up Olethros at the start of my weekend, so I was able to sit with them for those crucial first days. I knew I couldn’t intervene, because this is the alpha cat struggle, and Chaos (the only child for his first year) needed to win, but more than that, he needed me not to take the newcomer’s side. So I waited, and three days after they met, Chaos stopped trying to kill his new little brother, instead settling down to wash his face for him.

We got to know our new little guy, and it became clear his name didn’t quite fit–he was just too sweet. So I started calling him Leth-y for short, which to keep with the Greek theme, I spelled Lethe.

Lethe, it turned out, was a Ragdoll. I’d never heard of them before, but I learned about the breed after he was identified. They’re known for being sweet, devoted, affectionate, soft and beautiful little ones who want nothing more than to be held and petted. That was always true of Lethe. He used to sleep in the crook of my arm with his little head on my shoulder. I could pick him up and know he’d stay and let me hold him. He never stopped purring, it seemed, from the moment he noticed you looking his direction. He was purring ten minutes before he died.

We had 15 beautiful years together, and he was the light of my life. He loved bright shiny objects, fresh flowers, and playing fetch. He used to hide his toys along a narrow ledge, end to end, a tiny little OCD hoarder. In his last year, his joints started to pain him, and I hand fed him glucosamine treats every evening and cleaned up his puddles of pee where he missed the box nearly every time, because his poor sweet legs no longer bent quite right. His big brother never got over the compulsion to occasionally climb on him and chew at the back of his neck, and Lethe bore it with patience and dignity. His newest brother never learned to love him and would randomly walk past and hiss, but Lethe never responded, just looked over at me like, What’s with this guy?

He was the sweetest cat who ever lived. I was so lucky to know him.

Lethe, the sweetest angel.

 

 

A Pescetarian Holiday Meal

Like anyone who watches too much Food Network, I have come to believe that great recipes can be invented from the sudden need to use an ingredient. A couple of years ago, it was the apples my mom had sent me in the mail at Christmas.

They were locally grown, organic, and lovely…and they had not survived the trip all that well. They were edible, but so bruised that they were no longer appealing in their raw form. I didn’t want to waste them, so I started to think about how they might be used. I thought, Apples work well with…onions…and cranberries…okay, that’s a start.

As I envisioned it, the plan began to come together. I would slice up the apples and an onion, then sprinkle fresh cranberries (’tis the season for those little jewels, after all) throughout. And what next? One of my favorite things: cornbread!

I am largely pescetarian, which my husband thankfully doesn’t mind (I still make him plenty of meaty meals!), and I love trying new ideas in the kitchen. So, with this much of the meal planned out, I headed to my favorite fishmonger to ask what he had that day that he’d recommend for my crazy concoction. He said a nice fatty white fish was the way to go, and he recommended rockfish. (Note: the next time I made this dish, I used cod, and that was even better!)

I have now made this seasonal and satisfying meal twice, and my husband turned to me after taking a bite and said, “You just…made this up? Really? This is excellent!”

It’s got protein, fruits, tons of flavor, and the cornbread mimics stuffing, so I think this is a great new option for pescetarian families looking for a semi-traditional holiday dish. The one thing it’s missing is a really great name…I’ve been calling it the Apple Cranberry Fish Bake. Please feel free to leave suggestions in the comments!

Apple Cranberry Fish Bake

  • 1 yellow onion
  • 1 large or 2-3 small apples
  • 1 cup fresh cranberries

cornbread:

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil

fish:

  • 1 lb fish fillets (a fatty white fish)
  • 1/2 lemon
  • sage
  • paprika
  • 2-4 tbsp butter
  • salt & pepper
  1. Preheat your oven to 350.
  2. Slice the apples and onion, and arrange the slices together in the bottom of a deep 9×13 baking dish. Sprinkle your cranberries among the onion and apple slices, so there is a fairly even distribution.
  3. Prepare your cornbread batter, then pour it over the onions, apples, and cranberries. Cook for 20-25 minutes; the cornbread should be set but still very moist.

    Your baked cornbread will look like this--I love the color of the cranberries!
    Your baked cornbread will look like this–I love the color of the cranberries!
  4. Prepare your fish fillets by removing any bones, then sprinkling them with salt, pepper, paprika, and the juice from half a lemon.
  5. Lightly sprinkle the top of the cornbread with a dusting of sage, then place the fish on top of the sage. In any spots where the cornbread is uncovered by fish, place a small pat of butter to keep the bread from drying out at all. You can also add a pat of butter on top of the fish.
  6. Cover the dish with aluminum foil and bake 10 minutes. Then bake uncovered for the final 10 minutes (depending on the variety of fish you choose, you may need to adjust this cooking time–just make sure the fish is cooked perfectly!).
After the fish has been cooked, the bread will also be fully baked but deliciously moist underneath.
After the fish has been cooked, the bread will also be fully baked but deliciously moist underneath.

Another very important tip: Use fresh fish, not frozen! The additional water from the frozen fish would result in a very soggy mess in the cornbread.

I hope this easy, inexpensive holiday meal delights your pescetarian tastebuds!

Diary of a Wedding, pt. 1: the Dress

For the first two years of our relationship, Jordan and I lived about a mile apart. Nearly every day, I walked between our apartments, and it was on one of those trips that I discovered the beautiful work of Luly Yang. Her store was located halfway between our places, and I got in the habit of choosing the route that would take me past, so I could stop and stare at the amazing dresses in the window. Once I started to know that Jordan was the man I would someday marry, I couldn’t help fantasizing about buying my dress from that shop.

This May, after we got engaged, I looked up her website one night out of idle curiosity–we hadn’t started planning anything yet or even talked about setting a date, but I couldn’t resist a quick browse of the dresses I’d seen over the many months of walking by. To my surprise, the site announced the annual sample sale of bridal gowns was just getting underway! Though it was perhaps premature to go try on dresses, I texted my best friend to ask if she was free to join me the next afternoon and have a look.

We selected several from the sample sale rack as well as a few of the full price gowns to try on (I was certain I couldn’t afford the latter, but I couldn’t resist trying them on, and I thought it was important to make the full comparison, to know whether I was choosing the best of all or just the best I could have). For the next half an hour or so, I got to feel (and look) like a succession of princesses!

This dress could easily have been the one...it was gorgeous and lush.
This dress could easily have been the one…it was gorgeous and lush.
This dress is also a beauty, but the glass slipper didn't feel quite mine...
This dress is also a beauty, but the glass slipper didn’t feel quite mine…
This dress is so extraordinary! I still cherish the dream of buying it someday, but in a different color and for a different occasion.
This dress is so amazing! I still cherish the dream of buying it someday, but in a different color and for a different occasion.
Every dress is gorgeous and feels amazing on, but this wasn't me.
Every dress is gorgeous and feels fabulous on, but this one wasn’t me.
Again, not quite me. But a joy to have worn for even a minute.
Again, not quite me. But a joy to have worn for even a minute.
The smile on my face was the clearest sign--this was the only choice!
The smile on my face was the clearest sign–this was the only choice!

From Luly Yang’s Ocean collection, this dress was the first I tried on and the only real contender. I knew instantly this was the one, but I tried the rest on to make sure–each new dress made it even clearer I already knew I was going to buy the first! The cascades of uneven ripples down the skirt mimic seaweed growing up from the ocean floor and rippling in the waves. The shimmer of the fabric and its incredible softness to the touch are irresistible.

Totally the one!

Thank you again, to Luly Yang for designing this extraordinary dress (among so many others!), to Casey at Luly Yang for helping me in and out of the dresses, and most of all to Tara, for being with me every step of the way, the best friend a girl could hope for.

Star Sapphire 2814.2