Love, Death + Robots – A Review

Anyone here remember Animatrix? It was a collection of animated shorts but different artists/artistic teams that all took place in the universe of The Matrix. It was good, as good or better than the series itself.

Love Death + Robots is similar in that it is a series of animated shorts, in differing styles. Unlike Animatrix, there is NO common thread between them, no shared universe, no linking character or setting. It’s just random.

So, I guess it’s more like the old Heavy Metal Magazine, with the random comics.

The shorts range from 5-20 minutes in length. Some are done in 3D CG that is so good you have trouble telling they aren’t real people. Some are done in rotoscope. Some are done in edgy comic book/graffiti styles. Some are straight up 2D Sunday morning cartoons (but not family friendly).

The stories are gritty, but fun, for the most part. They all have something dark to them, something about survival, sacrifice, greed, stupidity … There’s a lot of violence, and a lot of nudity. And yet, it all stays classy somehow.

They’re stuck in my head. I mean, 97% of the shorts I watch end up stuck in my head for DAYS. I mull them over, admiring the concise storytelling, the expertly executed twists, the bland apathy of the robots touring a post-apocalyptic city, the deeper meaning behind the desert hallucinations, the subtle criticisms of colonialism or war, the strength of spirit, the depth of loyalty … And I admire the art, the clever writing, the uniqueness and audacity of the whole thing.

It just steps out and goes “fuck it, we’re doing this” and it’s so refreshing.

I’ve probably got 4 or maybe 6 episodes left, that I can’t watch until Friday night because I have to wait for my husband (we’re watching together and I’m not a ‘watch ahead cheater’). But I’ve been so blown away by the first dozen or so episodes that I can’t wait to review it.

No, I can’t wait to say “Go watch it!”

If I had to review every episode individually there’s one or two that might get 4 stars and so far only one that I would give 3 stars to. The rest get 5 out of 5. 11 out of 10. They’re good. They’re great. They’re “watch 17 episodes in one night and then watch them again tomorrow” good.

Seriously. It’s on Netflix. Go watch it. You won’t be disappointed.

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A Mother’s Pride

I am so proud of my daughter right now, but I am also hurting for her. She has come up against one of the hardest tests of the world, and she handled it amazingly well – unfortunately it cost her a lot.

On Friday at school a little girl, “T”, was poked in the eye by one of the known “mean boys”. My daughter was making paper snowflakes for her friends and decided to make one for “T” as well. Now, “T” is moderately high-needs, she has some pretty obvious symptoms like stimming, and she is 6, going on 7 (like my daughter). I know many of the kids, including my daughter, find “T” annoying. That didn’t stop my daughter from feeling mad that “T” had been bullied. My daughter knows what it feels like to be bullied so she was ready to cheer “T” up with a pretty paper snowflake.

Her friends were not impressed. They tried to talk her out of it, and even tried bribing her with a piece of gum. My daughter gave “T” the snowflake anyways.

On Monday her friends excluded her at recess and free play and sat at different tables from her. Same again on Tuesday.

On Tuesday my daughter did a nice thing for her friends, she sharpened pencil crayons for them. She then asked if she could borrow a marker and was told no. This resulted in an exchange of little notes. The one I saw said “I am never giving you gum again you are not my FRIEND”. On the back was a drawing of four girls, one on one side of a table, the other three on the other side. The lone girl was labelled with my daughter’s name, the other three were just labelled “us”. It was from the girl my daughter considered her best friend.

We were just making plans for my daughter’s birthday and this was the one girl my daughter wanted to invite to go out for a special day. This was the one girl my daughter has named her best friend since Kindergarten.

This afternoon my daughter exploded at me. She did not want to do her home reading. After an hour long temper tantrum she calmed enough I could do some prying and I got this story out of her. It turns out she was excluded again today.

I wrote a letter to her teacher explaining the chain of events. I’m all for children learning social interaction without major adult interference, and I think kids need the space and time to learn how to act towards each other on their own, but this concerned me deeply.

My daughter wrote a letter explaining how she was feeling.¬†“I don’t want to go to school right now. I don’t want to be bullied anymore. I am afraid I won’t have any friends anymore.”

She was begging me to homeschool her. She said, “All the girls picked¬†her side and I’m left with all the bullies” (she has a bit of a history with a few of the boys in her class).

I am so proud of her. She made the choice to do a compassionate and kind thing, even though her friends tried to talk her out of it. She’s had to learn the hard way that choosing the right thing can sadly cost you everything. These are the girls she desperately wants to be friends with, that she desperately wants to spend time with, and they’ve shunned her. I only hope when they dangle “friendship” in front of my daughter with some cruel or dangerous conditions (we’ll be your friends if…) that she’ll choose the right thing again.

Until then, all I can do is tell her I’m proud of her and help her build the emotional language to deal with the fall out.

Oh, and she grew up right before my eyes during dinner this evening. She said, “I know before I was yelling at you about my reading because I was mad but I want to apologize. I’m sorry for yelling. I was sad and I let it out as mad.”

She continues to amaze me and I think, road bumps aside, she’s on her way to becoming one heck of a young woman.

Book Shelf Motivation

I’ve been thinking a lot about inspiration and motivation these last few days. I guess inspiration is that air-fairy feeling of ideas and moods and wanting to write and knowing what to write about while motivation is what makes us put our butts in the chair and our fingers on the keys and makes us write stories instead of Facebook posts. They go hand in hand and one without the other causes all sorts of problems.

I’m a writer who rarely lacks inspiration but who often loses motivation.

Sometimes I’m a distracted writer. Facebook. Twitter. Instagram. Blogging. Answering emails. Some of it is legit marketing and networking. Some of it, a lot of it, is time wasting. I know this but it’s just so much easier to keep scrolling than to go back to work. And I often tumble down the rabbit-hole of related links and further reading.

And I’m not alone if the Memes out there are anything to go by.

But sometimes it’s not distraction that keeps my fingers from the keys. Sometimes it’s an overwhelming sense of … well, being overwhelmed. Deadlines and word count goals and the whole process of coherent thought and thoughtful story-telling just becomes too much. It’s this huge process and it’s easy to forget that it’s nothing more than one word after another – one letter at a time.

Every writer has that something that motivates them. Rewards are popular. So are editors or agents who stand there demanding deadlines be met. Sometimes I use rewards but I’m my own boss so I find it easy to ignore me.

For me, the greatest motivation I have is my book shelf. I inherited a lot of my mom’s books, like these Stephen King hardcovers:

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This doesn’t even include all the paperbacks I own by Stephen King and there’s a lot of books here. 34 here, plus On Writing which is one shelf up, plus the paperbacks. Mr. King has written a lot of books.

And then there’s these classics, also part of my inheritance:

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17 paperbacks by David Eddings, plus one hardcover a few shelves down.

Now David Eddings and Stephen King are both prolific writers and really, they take up the largest chunks of my book shelf. But here’s another, an author I didn’t inherit:

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I don’t even have this full series, and it’s not her only series.

So why am I showing you these snapshots of my book shelves? Because I walk into my room and I look at these shelves FULL of books by other authors and then I look at this shelf:

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6 books. Okay, the latest 2 are missing. I’m ordering them soon. So 8 books. That’s it. Compared to the other sections of my shelf it is LEAN.

I walk into my room and I see this and I think “I want to take up an entire shelf in someone’s room some day.” This is what puts my butt in the chair. This is what renews me and spurs me to finish the next book. Or one of the things, anyway.

I know I CAN have that many books on the shelf, I just have to write them. I just have to finish them. I just have to ignore the distractions and the doubts and the overwhelming big picture and write the books. They’re there inside me, all these stories just waiting to come out. All I have to do is get them down. And get them edited. And get covers for them. But I’m not thinking about that now or I’ll get overwhelmed again.

Right now I’m thinking about writing.

What motivates you?

Intermission

I apologize. There was supposed to be a new review up today and there won’t be. I’ve been swamped with personal things for a week, I’m behind on sleep, my kids are behind on sleep, and I’ve got too much to do and not enough time to do it.

So, I would rather the reviews be bumped back a week so I can give the books the time and attention they deserve than try to rush them. As such, there will be no review on Saturday either. There is a post scheduled for Sunday and hopefully next week we’ll be back to reviews.

Thank you for your understanding.

Stop F*cking Up Halloween

I live in a rural area about 3 miles outside of a small town. I mean one main drag and two bays small. I mean a mile worth of pavement small. And I love it. We chose to go around the bays with our kids for Halloween because it’s the same small town where my husband trick-or-treated when he was a kid. This is our third year celebrating Halloween in this small town.

This year there were A LOT of dark houses. A LOT of houses with their cars parked horizontal across the driveway blocking visitors. When you’re already walking up to a quarter mile between driveways, to have multiple dark houses in a row is a real bummer for the kids. I know it’s a small town. I know it was rainy this year. But can we keep Halloween? Please?

I’m all for the youth group Halloween parties and the Church run All Saints Day parties and the safe trick or treat at the malls, I really am. Their was one year when it was frigid cold and blowing sleet on Halloween and the local mall offered safe trick or treat so Halloween didn’t have to be cancelled, this was about twelve years ago and the idea caught on. It’s great for bad weather or for little kids who can’t be out late or can’t walk far yet. But for those 4-14 year olds (hell let ’em trick or treat until their 30!) going door to door is an experience that should be had at least once.

My kids love it. I don’t want to go to another town, or into the city. I don’t want to go to the mall (though we did when the kids were very little). Of course I love Halloween and dress up and everything. I don’t say trick or treat at the door, I’m too old for that now, but I don’t turn down a treat from people who offer.

And to top it all off, now there’s an epidemic of pins in the chocolate bars! Seriously people!! WHAT THE SERIOUS FUCK!!!

This is a holiday that has become a celebration of the other. We can be anything or anyone we want. We can be cute or sexy or scary. It gives teens the chance to flirt with their own sexuality. It gives kids the chance to be super heroes. You get to run around in the dark and eat too much junk. AND YOU WANT TO RUIN THAT JOY BY STICKING NEEDLES IN CHOCOLATE BARS??

WHY!!!????

I just don’t understand why you would want to do this. Does it give you perverse pleasure to see children in the hospital? Are you trying to end traditional Halloween for everyone by making it “unsafe”?

Halloween is a simple joy. It really is. One year my son was Bob the Builder. He wore his own denim overalls and his own plaid shirt and his dad’s hard hat and carried a plastic hammer. It cost us nothing. On year he wore his rain jacket inside out with a pair of overalls and his dad’s ski goggles and went as a minion.

Please. Can we keep Halloween? Can we not muck this up for our kids? Please?