IF WE WERE HAVING COFFEE | APRIL 18th, 2018

Welcome back to another ‘If we were having coffee’ -post were we pretend to meet up for a coffee to catch up with each others lives.

It has been almost a year since our last virtual ‘coffee meet-up’ so I thought I’d give you a brief update of things.

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you that I’m re-reading The Lord of the Rings again. In my last ‘If we were having coffee’ – post from June 2017, I’ve talked about how I’ve re-read The Silmarillion and The Hobbit, and were re-reading LOTR. Almost a year later, I’m planning to do (almost) the same. I’m currently half-way through reading The Two Towers and have read Beren and Luthien a few weeks ago. I plan on reading The Silmarillion next, but in order to switch things up, I think I’ll read The Children of Hurin instead of The Hobbit afterwards. Very exciting news, I know.

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I’ve given up trying to stay up to date with geeky news. I’ve still haven’t watched many of the things I plan on watching for years and I’ve accepted that I’ll probably never will. I’m still very much in the mood to read and do nothing much but read. At some point I might start writing book reviews…. if I ever manage to get my nose out of a book long enough! In the meantime, the best book I’ve read this years so far is The Complete Robot by Isaac Asimov.

I have, however, managed to catch up with one TV show though. During the Christmas break, I’ve managed to watch Westworld season one and OH EM GEE this show is soo good. This show has everything I love about the art form of Television all the way down to even a great intro song. My favourite characters? The Man in Black and Maeve, hands down. I have not seen the trailer for season two and I’m not planning to do it either. I want to surprised by whats to come.

I’ve simply walked into Mordor. A few months ago, Lord of the Rings Online released Mordor as a region, and my Hobbit hunter is finally strong enough to enter and quest in Mordor…well, kind of. Mordor is designed for levels 105 and higher and even though my Hobbit hunter is level 108 (of 115 in total) I’m still struggling to quest in Mordor. Sure, Mordor was designed to be difficult, it is Mordor after all, but still the struggle is very very real! I’m loving it though. Also, LOTRO recently released Laketown, Thranduil’s palace and the Lonely Mountain as Rergions and I’m soooo tempted to buy the region because I really want to quest there!

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How about you, what have your geeky life has been like in the last ten months? Have you watched Westworld and if you did which was your favourite character? Leave a comment down below!

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Selfmade ‘Today in Middle-earth’ – Moleskine Journal

Several years ago, Moleskine release some beautiful Hobbit edition of its notebooks. As a lover of Moleskine notebooks and all things Tolkien, I had to get one too. While I loved every notebook in this Hobbit series, I settled for this notebook in pocket size.

Yet, until recently, I didn’t knew what to use it for. I wanted to use it for Middle-earth related stuff, but I was also too afraid to use it in case I ruin it. You know, the usual struggle every stationery lover has.

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A few days ago, as I was thinking of #middleearthmarch I somehow got THE IDEA: Why not use that Hobbit Moleskine notebook to write all Middle-earth dates down?

If you’re like me, March will make you wonder ‘What exactly happened that day in Middle-earth’? The entire year is filled with important days in Middle-earth, but March is, without a  doubt, one of the busiest months in Middle-earth. So whenever I wanted to know what was ‘going on’ in Middle-earth, I’d search the internet. Now, I don’t have to browse the world wide web, I can just grab my Middle-earth Calendar notebook and look up what is going on.

How I created my ‘Today in Middle-earth’ Moleskine Notebook

The most pressing question some of you now might have is ‘Where did you get all the dates from’? The best resouce on the internet is, by far, The One Ring.Net’s ‘Today in Middle-earth Calendar’. It is the most extensive and structured calender I’ve seen so far. No need to reference dozens of different hopepages anymore.

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Section 1: LOTR events month on two pages

For my own, analogue version, I created two sections. A ‘month on two pages’ featuring Lord of the Rings Events only and a ‘Chronicles of Middle-earth’ section featuring all dates and events. The LOTR  events only section allows only for the most important event on each day. It serves me as a quick overview. My ‘Chronicles of Middle-earth’ section is the one section I’ll use as a detailed account of events.

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Section 2

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My system of colour-coding events

In order to make things organized and clear, I’ve decided to colour-code the events in my ‘Chronicles of Middle-earth’ section. Black stands for events  significant to LOTR, blue are events of importance to The Hobbit and purple encompasses miscellaneous events such as Tolkien’s birthday. All in all, I used up about two-thirds of my notebook. Depending on your handwriting or added decoration, it my be different for you if you decide to re-create it.

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Section 2: ‘Chronicles of Middle-earth’

I’m not gonna lie, at times it felt tedious to write everything down. However, for the most part, I’ve really enjoyed the process. I’d put on Middle-earth inspired music and pretend to be a Gondorian historian. Now that I’m finished I’m desperate to re-read LOTR again!

Have you done anything similar? If now, what do you think of my little project? Leave a comment down below!

Disability & Pop Culture: An Amputee’s Point of View

Whenever you think of disabled characters in pop culture, you’ll probably think of Geordi La Forge from Star Trek, Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader from Star Wars, and maybe of Forrest Gump and Lieutenant Dan from Forrest Gump. Disabled characters, whether they have a physical disability, an intellectual disability or have a chronic illness, are far and few inbetween in pop culture. There is a greater variety of vampires, ghosts, and aliens than disabled characters (or any other minorities for that matter).

I was born one-handed (don’t worry, I have no difficulties with typing this) and for the longest time, the only characters in film, tv, or books that looked like me, and by that I mean characters with missing limbs, were Luke Skywalker, Lieutenant Dan, and the occasional villian such as Darth Vader or Azog from The Hobbit. Naturally, most of them immediately became my favourite characters of that film or tv show regardless of whether they were good guys or even well-written characters. Seriously, no matter who the characters is, I’d get excited beyond words just to see someone ‘like me’ on screen, even if it was murderous Orc.

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Me, a few years back.

A statistic by the Media, Diversity and Social Change Initiative from 2015 revealed that “just 2.4 percent of characters in the top 100 movies who spoke or had actual names had disabilities. That’s a significant gap between fiction and reality, since the Census Bureau has found in 2010 that 56.7 million people, or 18.7 percent of Americans, have disabilities. ” I’m sure the numbers will be the same for many other countries as well.

Here is a detailed breakdown of what this study uncovered:

Characters with disabilities appeared in 55 of those 100 movies. And of those characters, 61 percent had physical disabilities, 37.1 had mental or cognitive disabilities, and 18.1 percent had communicative disabilities. Characters with disabilities were overwhelmingly male; just 19 percent of characters with disabilities were female. Characters with disabilities were likely to be relatively marginalized in the movies in which they did appear: 10 of the 100 top-grossing films from 2015 featured characters with disabilities as leads or co-leads. Of the 11 movies that Smith and her colleagues classified as ensemble, two featured characters with disabilities as part of the core ensemble. (Source: washingtonpost.com)

The number of disabled actors on film and tv is similarly small. In fact, whenever I see a disabled character portrayed, I automatically roll my eyes thinking “ah yes another abled-bodied actor”. The exceptions to this are characters with dwarfism or down syndrome. These are the only examples that come to my mind where disabled actors are always chosen to portray a character that has the same disability as them. When it comes to other disabilities, more often than not, an able-bodied actor is chosen.

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Luke Skywalker

I can still remember, years and years ago, when CSI: Las Vegas came out how I reacted with cynicism upon seeing the Coroner Dr. Albert Robbins walking with a crutch. Even more so when it was revealed the character of Dr. Robbins is a double-amputee. Only later did I found out that the actor portraying Dr. Robbins, Robert David Hall was, in fact, a double-amputee himself! Over the years my interest in CSI: Las Vegas dwindled, especially after the departure of actor William Petersen, but I kept on watching it just for Dr. Robbins. Finally, I’ve found a character whose disability was just one aspect of his personality and not a walking-talking stereotype, nor a villain.

For most of my life, I didn’t really think about this issue in-depth. I just accepted the low numbers and sometimes terrible representation without question. However, as I get older and started my academic career in culture studies, with a focus on literary studies, I began to think critically and eventually began a Ph.D on disability in literature. For a year now, I’ve been reading and researching books and short stories in science fiction featuring disabled characters and let me tell you it wasn’t very easy. Not all summaries online will tell you that a book or short story deals with disability issues. Some books, I’ve stumbled upon by accident on amazon while browsing for another unrelated book.

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Lieutenant Dan

Initially, I intended this to be a brief “x amount of disabled characters in Science Fiction” – list. However, I realized very early that this is not an issue I can summarize in just a few sentences, hence, my Ph.D project. I could go on an on in this post, but it is too long and to “here and there” already. In other words, I want to write more blog-posts discussing disability in pop-culture. I don’t know, nor can I promise anything, how long this series will be or how frequent these type of posts will be. However, I will try, at the very least, to contribute a bit to the discussion of disability rights. I’m over 30 now and if a few random posts here and there end up helping a young person growing up with a disability to feel more confident and find characters that “look just like themselves” then I’ve succeeded.

So what’s next up? A short list of science fiction books and short-stories I’ve recently read that feature disabled characters. Moreover, there are numerous movies, tv shows, or books with disabled characters that I haven’t watched or read yet. So I think it’ll be nice to give brief reviews of my first thoughts on these characters.

It is your turn now. What are your thoughts on this issue? Do you have a movie, tv-show, game, comic, or book featuring disabled characters that you absolutely love or hate? Leave a comment down below!

Lily Reads Comics – The StoryTeller: Giants

I’m never one to miss a Jim Henson comic, but it sure can take me a while to get around to reviewing them. In a prior installment of Lily Reads Comics, I shared The StoryTeller: Dragons, and now that the newest series, The StoryTeller: Fairies is reigniting interest in the stories, I’m excited to share them with you!

Tale One: The Peach’s Son

The StoryTeller: Giants – Tale One features story and art by Conor Nolan with letters by Warren Montgomery.

This first issue in the series is based on the Japanese folktale of Momotarō, which translates to “Peach Boy” or “The Peach’s Son.” In folklore and in the comic, a giant peach is discovered by an old childless woman while she is washing clothes in the river. When she and her husband cut into it to eat, they discover a baby boy inside.

I think it’s clever how the comic imagines the boy from the giant peach growing up to be a giant himself. The old couple loves and supports him as their own son, but the villagers mistrust someone who looks so different. When displaced people arrive with stories of ogres, the giant boy offers to help them reclaim their homes, hoping that it might also vindicate him in the eyes of his neighbors.

On his journey, the boy befriends a wolf, a monkey, and a crane. I love a good camaraderie story, and I was looking forward to each of the animals using their unique talents to help the boy. The only disappointment I felt was because the story wasn’t longer, because by the time our fellowship meets the ogres, the comic was already past the halfway point, so there wasn’t much time to indulge in elaborate teamwork-heavy battle strategies. That’s a personal preference, though; I don’t think the story is really lacking and it ends happily, as The StoryTeller series often does.

I loved the artwork in this issue, especially how it portrayed the StoryTeller. Conor Nolan really nailed it with the facial expressions, and whether they were on humans, animals, or ogres, they were compelling and emotive. It’s always a good sign when I find myself staring at pages long after I’ve read all the words, and I did just that!

My only lingering questions originate from a panel on the second page. When the old peasant woman is doing her washing in the river, there are six giant peaches and she manages to bring one of them home. Could there have been giant children inside the other peaches? What are their stories?

Tale Two – The Tailor’s Daughter

The StoryTeller: Giants – Tale Two features story and art by Brandon Dayton with coloring assistance by Spencer Holt.

This second issue draws on stories from Russia, Norway, and France, and from the start, it had me wondering how it would surprise me. The StoryTeller series has a penchant for opposing our expectations when it comes to a character’s intentions. Like some issues from The StoryTeller: Witches and The StoryTeller: Dragons before it, the giant of our first tale was a hero, and I thought that some twist might reveal a kind heart inside the grotesque giant of this story.

Also like our first hero, the protagonist comes across three animal friends on her journey, but instead of joining her to fight, they offer her gifts. After receiving the best needle and pincushion from her father, the tailor’s daughter rescues a goose, a hare, and a mare from the giant’s snares. When they learn she is travelling to the castle to marry the giant and fulfill her father’s promise, they give her a magic collar, magic boots, and a magic comb, respectively, saying that she will need them more than they will.

She arrives at the castle to find her betrothed has monstrous table manners, but he does give her full access to everything the castle has to offer — the gardens, the libraries, the halls — except for the cellar. But as the Storyteller says, “You can’t tell a story with a shut door anymore than you can with a shut mouth,” so you know she’s going to open it. I won’t tell you what she finds, but you can bet that she will put all of her gifts to good use!

The art style here was very different from its predecessor, but I loved it just as much. The castle afforded many opportunities for dense bookshelves and laden tables, and I wanted to soak in every detail. That led me to discover one tiny continuity error, though. The magical comb doesn’t appear in her hair until the panel when she opens the cellar door. I suppose it is magical, after all.

Tale Three – Pru and the Fomorian Giants

The StoryTeller: Giants – Tale Three features story and art by Jared Cullum with letters by Warren Montgomery.

Before this comic, I had no idea about the Fomorian giants of Irish mythology (or The Forgotten Realms, for that matter). They are the foes of this tale, and based on their size in comparison to humans, I’d say they might also be the largest giants of the series.

The Fomoire are the catalyst, but they take a back seat to the story of the bond between siblings. The arrival of these giants separates Pru and her little brother from their parents, and after three years of living on their own in the wild, Pru is adept at protecting Spoon (we have reason to believe this is not the name his parents Mathghamhain and Fedlimid gave him) with her slingshot and her father’s drum. When she can’t defend herself, a mysterious spirit named Púka comes to her aid. Spoon takes to Púka immediately. But Pru is tired of always having to look after her brother, and in her frustration, she blames him for their parents’ fate. By the time she can take back her words, it’s too late. Spoon wanders off alone to prove himself and is quickly captured by a Femoire!

To save her brother, Pru teams up with Púka whose shapeshifting abilities are sure to come in handy. And Mathghamhain’s words, “Family stays together,” may take on a whole new meaning.

Jared Cullum’s watercolors created something special in this issue. I was impressed by the way Cullum conveyed motion in an early panel with a giant’s shadow overtaking a horse, and it was a perfect medium for the ethereal movement of Púka. Setting Púka apart with speech bubbles that were a different color than those of the mere mortals was a nice addition. I loved that the first form we saw of the shapeshifter was a bear, since Mathghamhain means “bear” in Irish Gaelic.

And remember when I said that stories in the StoryTeller series tend to have happy endings? That isn’t always true. The world of Pru and Spoon was changed forever when the Fomoire arrived. Their tale cannot right all the wrongs, but it still manages to end on a hopeful scene.

Tale Four – The Fisherman and the Giant

The StoryTeller: Giants – Tale Three features story and art by FeiFei Ruan with spot illustration by Sonny Liew.

This is normally the part where I give a little bit of cultural context or begin a plot synopsis, but I have to start with the art style because it is so striking.  FeiFei Ruan creates a surreal atmosphere with delicate, fine lines that draws on traditional Eastern art styles, but creates an entirely new experience. The comic, like much of Ruan’s work, is done in only a few colors. Please take a moment to marvel at the first three pages in the gallery below.

You don’t even know what a treat you’re in for as the comic continues.

This tale is based on the story of the fisherman and the genie from The Arabian Nights. In this version, the genie has been replaced with a powerful giant that can even change into a large bird. It all starts with our fisherman taking pity on the fish in his net when he discovers they used to be humans. They were the former inhabitants of a beautiful island, but when the ruling giant’s heart was broken, he decided to make all the humans disappear. When the fisherman arrives on the island, he is greeted by a courtyard of stone soldiers. Three mice try to deter him, assuming he seeks to gain the giant’s magical powers like all the rest who were turned to stone, but he tells them that his only desire is to stop the giant. The mice spell out the secret to the giant’s destruction, but even they can only help the fisherman for so long before the giant turns them into a three-headed dog to pursue our hero.

The story is simple and straightforward, and with all of his tools and allies, the fisherman is sure to triumph. But I won’t spoil the ending for you!

 

Jim Henson’s The StoryTeller: Giants was released as a hardcover graphic novel in August 2017. If you love the look of these stories, why not head to your local comic book shop and order them all in one volume? While you’re there, you could pick up the first issue of Jim Henson’s The StoryTeller: Fairies that came out last month. I can’t wait to read the rest of the latest series.

I’m excited to share more comic books with you in my next installment of Lily Reads Comics. Until then, let me know your thoughts on the tales from The StoryTeller: Giants!

December Favorites

Happy New Year, readers!

I still can’t believe 2017 is finally over, it hasn’t been a good year for the world in general and I really hope 2018 is going to be better.

I have so many personal things I loved in December that I decided to include only a few of them. Christmas is my favorite holiday and the whole month is a treat for me, I love that I can always end a crappy year with some positivity and time spent with loved ones.

Here are some of the things I loved in December.

The snow at the beginning of the month. Even if I live in northern Italy very close to the Alpes, it’s rare that we experience some snow before January or February. However, this year we’ve been delighted with a White Christmas and I still can’t realize how lucky I felt when I woke up and the hills and roofs were all white.

The Crown. My only TV show of December has been the second season of The Crown. I love everything about this series and I’m sad that this cast is going to be replaced for the third season. They are planning a new round every two seasons because the actors would start to appear too young as soon as the story progress.

Journey app. Since discovering the DayOne app on iOS, I looked for something similar on Android and I finally found Journey. It syncs with Google Drive and it’s free (!) and it’s basically a digital private journal. I like to write one (or more, it depends) line a day recapping what happened and I usually add a photo or two. It’s like a private Instagram/Twitter thing where I can record my memories.

Instagram Detox. The last favorite of mine is the time I spent unplugged on Christmas day and the day after. It was refreshing and relaxing and I felt so good that I’ll definitely reduce my time online in the future.

Star Wars – The Last Jedi. I finally managed to see the second chapter of the new trilogy right after Christmas and I loved it, even more than the first one! It isn’t my main fandom but I’m sure I’m going to get the DVD (still old school here) when it will be available.

 

How was your December? What are your favorite things of the month?