scraps of poetry and madness

a blog by J Lincoln Dennis

Rogue One: A Star Wars Review

I’ve seen Rogue One twice now, and I’m glad I did. Not just because its a very good movie, but because my impressions have changed after a second viewing. By its very nature as a stand-alone, interstitial movie, it is extra challenging to unpack and respond to. And that makes it fun!

The general excitement for Rogue One wasn’t as palpable as it was a year ago for The Force Awakens, but I was operating at Hype Level 9000. I was just as excited - if not more-so - for this movie as I was for TFA. To oversimplify it, I wanted a movie with 70’s Star Wars aesthetic and 2016 special effects. Did I get what I was hoping for? Short answer: YES. Longer answer follows, but obviously contained within are millions of spoilers for Rogue One and probably every Star Wars piece of media ever.

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How Does Star Wars Move On Without Leia?

I hope this isn’t in bad taste, but I have been thinking a lot recently about how Carrie Fisher’s death will affect Episodes VIII and IX. Putting aside how much her death has affected the fandom, the greater sphere of pop culture, and me personally, well, I have some ideas.

Spoilers for The Force Awakens. (And sort of Rogue One? I guess?)

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The Year In Reading

2016 was a rough year. Understatement of the apocalypse, I know. But this isn’t the kind of post that attempts to actually process 2016. Haha, no. That requires introspection and effort. No, this is just about books and junk.

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Every Book I Read in 2016

Inspired by Ryan North. For more rambly thoughts about my Year in Books, clicky here.

01 Ms Marvel, vol 4: Last Days; G Willow Wilson, Adrian Alphona
The last Ms Marvel volume before Secret Wars (sort of) rebooted the Marvel universe, this might be the best arc yet. It’s smaller in scope than previous adventures (which is weird, considering the impending apocalypse), and Kamala finally meets her idol, Carol Danvers. Amazing, stylized art paired with sweet, clever writing. Ms Marvel continues to be one of the best comics going. (5/5)

02 Lafayette in The Somewhat United States; Sarah Vowell
The wittiest history-adjacent book I’ve ever read. Reading this book is more like having a meandering conversation with someone who knows a lot about history than pouring over a textbook. Also, Vowell was writing about the Revolution in the midst of present-day government shutdowns and congressional gridlock, a situation that is not ignored in the book. Pairs well with repeated listenings of Hamilton. (5/5)

03 Giant Days, vol 1; John Allison, Lissa Treiman
The beginning of a coming-of-college age tale centered on three young women just starting university. Bright, vibrant art brings to life a funny and charming script. I loved these characters, and the chance to redeem my own less-than-stellar college experience vicariously through them. Ideally though, I’d prefer to binge on multiple volumes as this one just went down too quick. (4/5)

04 In The Woods; Tana French
A murder mystery that’s not really about that particular murder. Or, at least that’s not the part I found the most interesting. This is a slow, but beautiful and tragic book that builds up and tears down some very fascinating characters. The pace isn’t for everyone, but if you can take the time with this book, odds are it will be immensely rewarding. It was for me. (5/5)

05 Drawing Blood; Molly Crabapple
The memoir of a defiant young artist this book took me inside the worlds of art, womanhood travel and protest. Besides telling an engaging and unflinching personal story, this book is fully illustrated with Crabapple’s incredible art throughout. While there is a little something lost by telling her story without much distance of time for reflection, this is still an amazing story that took me to places I could have never gone on my own. (4/5)

06 Deadpool’s Secret Secret Wars; Cullen Bunn, Matteo Lolli
Probably best for those who not only already love Deadpool but are also familiar with the original Secret Wars crossover event from the 1990’s. But, since I am in the middle of that venn diagram, I enjoyed the heck out of this quick, funny if occasionally jumpy read. (4/5)

07 Hunger Makes Me A Modern Girl; Carrie Brownstein (audio)
Brownstein tells her story of becoming a musician and forming Sleater-Kinney with Corin Tucker. First being introduced to Brownstein as an NPR music contributor, I was not shocked at all that this book was exquisitely written with a great deal of self-, societal-, and music- analysis. Thoughtful, personal and raw it had the added benefit of giving me a new respect and understanding of not only Sleater-Kinney, but Portlandia as well. Best book of the year. (5/5)

08 Star Wars: Chewbacca; Gerry Duggan, Phil Noto
A fairly generic story is not helped by the fact that Chewie’s vocal subtext is lost in the transition to the comic medium. This makes him an awkward figure in his own story. But Phil (Freakin’!) Noto continues to deliver some of the best art I’ve ever seen. (3/5)

09 Flight Behavior; Barbara Kingsolver
A woman 10 years into an adult life she never really wanted contemplates her options as millions of butterflies descend on her rural town. This seemingly miraculous event opens her eyes to the ways the world at large, and her world, are irrevocably changing. I loved this book because it brought me into another culture, and yet was also incredibly relatable, particularly in its discussions of class and economics. I don’t usually read this kind of family drama books, but this family, these characters were interesting, complex, well-developed and easy to invest in. (5/5)

10 Faith, vol 1: Hollywood and Vine; Jody Houser, Francis Portela, Marguerite Sauvage
My first book in the new Valiant universe, Faith gets a lot of mileage out of a simple concept: a hero who is basically a good person, who helps people out simply because it’s the right thing to do. Faith is a bit of a dork too. Getting used to her new solo surroundings, she’s a great narrator and solid entry point to both her history, and Valiant’s larger universe. Francis Portela’s art is very good, but as usual Marguerite Sauvage steals the show with her gorgeous dream-sequence spreads in each issue. (This is the second time I’ve noticed a book adding a second artist for dreams/flashbacks, the first being Angela: Asgard’s Assassin.) (4/5)

11 The Secret Loves of Geek Girls; ed Hope Nicholson
An anthology combining short essays, stories and comics, this collection documents exactly what is says on the tin, the loves of geeks who identify as women. Due to the sheer number of voices, perspectives, and interpretations of the main theme, it is hard to say anything that broadly encapsulates my feelings other than, “I loved this book.” This book showed me so many perspectives outside of my own, introduced me to new creators and in general, gave me all the feels. Also, I loved the format, combining prose with comics. (4/5)

12 Holidays on Ice; David Sedaris
For a long time, people (that I trust) have told me I would love David Sedaris. After reading this book, I want to retroactively un-friend every one of them. Take away the casual racism, “jokes” about dead babies and sexually assaulting children, and general arrogance hiding behind a mask of ‘satire’, and you are still left with a deeply unfunny, bland collection of essays and stories. I honestly have no idea how this man has received the accolades he has. (0/5)

13 Hamilton: The Revolution; Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeremy McCarter
The definitive book of and about the smash musical; of course I was going to like it. But this book goes above and beyond, weaving the story of making the show along with conversations with the cast and creative team together with the full libretto, annotated by Lin-Manuel Miranda himself. Best of books and best of musicals. (5/5)

More Thoughts on Gilmore Girls: A Year In The Life

Part Two: Matriarchs

This is the second part of my review. Read Part One here!

This post contains all of the spoilers for Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life, and I think some for Parenthood too. So be careful, kids.

Rory and her related subplots were not without issue, but the plots of the other two Gilmore Girls were quite solid.

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Thoughts on Gilmore Girls: A Year In The Life

Part One: Stars Hollow, Paris, and Rory

As a general disclaimer, while I love Gilmore Girls, I am aware as a cis dude it cannot mean the same things to me, in the same ways, that it does for many women and female-identifying fans. During the show’s first run I didn’t pay attention to representation, or think too hard about what the show meant to women and feminists. I’m a different kind of viewer now. (Thankfully!) Paying more attention to the world in 2016, I can’t say everything about the show has aged well, and my naive nostalgia for the original run has undeniably tainted and tinged my reception to this new series.

That being said, I am somewhat surprised how divisive the reaction to the show’s return has been. I wouldn’t consider it the best, maxed-out version of everything I loved about the series, but I’d hardly describe it as a train-wreck either.

An incredible amount of Gilmore Girls spoilers follow, and a handful for Parenthood too, be ye warned.

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"We Got This, Me and You"

How the Jaipur Literature Festival Welcomed this Book Nerd With Open Arms

Last weekend, I attended the Jaipur Literature Festival at Boulder (JLF@Boulder), hosted by the Boulder Public Library. I had never heard of this literature festival, and never been to any literature festival before. I saw banners and signs at the library, advertising the festival, but assumed it was Not For Me.

Later, walking down the Pearl Street Mall, I passed by the window of Boulder Bookstore showing off a bunch of Ms Marvel trades. It was the kind of display they put up when an author is coming for a signing. G Willow Willson, writer of the series and all around amazing human, was coming here? That made sense, she has come to Boulder before. Turns out, she was coming as part of JLF@Boulder. Maybe it was For Me after all!

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Hello World

Welcome to the experiment! This is the first post. Many more shall follow it! No harm in starting things with a little positive thinking. I mean, I am launching a blog in 2016, I need all the positive thinking I can get. I keep reading posts lamenting the death of the personal blog. Let’s call their bluff.

This is the personal blog of one J Lincoln Dennis. However you got here, I’m glad you made it.