the adventures of young ham solo

I’ve explained the increasingly grand tradition of Sibling Thanksgiving before. In 2015 we leveled up our theme game with THANKVENGERS: The Winter Solstice, and in 2016 we went all in on Harry Potter and the Day of Thanks.

For 2017 it was time to head for the stars. Without further ado, I present The Adventures of Young Ham Solo: A Star Wars Story!

Only approved guests could get past the door guards.

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Nothing to see here, move along

Once admitted, you were free to help yourself to a drink at the Dagobar.

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There is no try. There is only drink or drink not.

Dinner was served beneath the shadow of the Empire, but never fear, a squadron of X-wing fighters were en route to do battle overhead.

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Let’s blow this thing and get dinner!

And for those inclined to join the Rebellion, there was an optional Jedi training piñata for just that purpose.

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Use the force, Luke!

There weren’t any themed dishes this year, although there WAS a round of blue milkshakes for the kids and blue milk (rumchata) for the adults afterward. We had our usual unnecessary flood of side dishes instead: cornbread, rice ball casserole, lumpia, green bean casserole, mashed potatoes, obligatory turkey breast, stuffed jalepeños, stuffed mushrooms, stuffing, and French bread! *gasps for breath*

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Why do we do this?!

There were five kids toddling-and-up, but between the piñata candy, soda, dinner, and dessert, they vibrated so hard they achieved singularity and melted into the infrastructure of the house, only visible in blurs out of the corner of your eye.

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The rare candy-ghost caught on film.

Dinner, of course, was followed by kicking all the children from the room and playing a disgusting and curse-filled round of Loaded Questions.

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Almost anything can be answered “your mother’s vagina”

All in all, A ROLICKING SUCCESS!

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NEXT UP: CHRISTMAAAASS

And on a final note: it sure is nice to have professional help to clean up after a big party. Thanks, guys!

the hall of good relationships!

I’ve previously discussed my love of academic action heroes and lady action heroes. Today I’d like to talk about a different character type entirely. Or should that be characters? Because these are my favorite romantic couples across the media hemispheres, and I probably should have saved this post for February but WHO HAS TIME FOR THAT KIND OF FORWARD PLANNING.

As I put this together, I realized I was much more likely to find happy, healthy couples in series (book series, TV shows, movies with sequels) than one-off stories, which tend to focus on the first blush of romance and fail to follow through on life after the HEA. Or else they find their story conflict in relationship conflict, and I don’t have time for toxicity, no matter how much drama fodder it provides. Final observation: There is a lamentable dearth of healthy long-term LGBT+ couples in the media I consume. Part of that, I’m sure, is me not casting a wide enough net (I live mostly in the action/adventure and scifi/fantasy genres). Another part of it, I’m even more sure, is a failure OF the media I consume. But I digress.

Without further ado, and in no particular order: The Hall of Good Relationships!

Hal and Lois Wilkerson – Malcolm in the Middle

hal and loisHal and Lois might be my favorite TV parents. In large part that’s due to their subversion of the usual sitcom dynamic, which tends to pit overbearing Mom against beleaguered Dad for some “haha women are nags, men are clueless idiots” humor. Which, need I say, I loathe. In Malcolm in the Middle, Lois is overbearing, and Hal is beleaguered, but instead of battling each other they are battling their nightmare children. Hal and Lois manage their house and fight their kids as a united front, and their continued passion for one another is a frequent plot point. I can actually believe they’ve stayed married because they love and support one another, whereas in most family comedies I can’t imagine the passive aggressive snipery leading anywhere but divorce.

Amelia Peabody and Radcliffe Emerson – the Amelia Peabody series by Elizabeth Peters

crocodile sandbankAmelia and Emerson are my favorite married couple in ALL LITERARY HISTORY. They are turn-of-the-century Egyptologists who accidentally get caught up in a murder mystery every year. Like you do! Emerson is gruff and Amelia is exceedingly practical, and after butting heads on their first adventure together (naturally) they fall madly in love, get married, have one (FABULOUS) child, and continue to excavate artifacts and solve mysteries together henceforward. There are no plots about them getting into fights over stupid misunderstandings and then making up again. They remain madly in love for decades and face everything together AND I LOVE THEM.

Alexia Tarabotti and Conall Maccon – the Parasol Protectorate series by Gail Carriger

soullessIn a steampunk/paranormal Victorian England, Alexia is a soulless preternatural, capable of nullifying the supernatural nature of vampires and werewolves with physical contact. Conall Maccon is a werewolf and head of the Woolsey pack. They get together in book one of the five-book series, and remain a dedicated couple through that and subsequent related series (minus one ‘misunderstanding’ plot, I will forgive ONE and ONLY ONE). I got about halfway through the first book  before realizing that the reason I loved Alexia and Connall so much is that they are a paranormal Amelia and Emerson. Exceedingly practical woman in her mid-30s assumes she is destined for spinsterhood, meets a gruff passionate man who madly adores her, they settle into a life of adventure, and they win my heart forever. Apparently, I have a type.

Zoe and Hoban Washburne – Firefly

zoe and washShe’s a tough-as-nails military veteran, he’s a goofball pilot with zero combat skills, they are ADORABLE, and in my head canon she carries him to safety and they have three babies and Wash does most of the childcare while Zoe continues to run dangerous smuggling missions, and you CANNOT TAKE THIS FROM ME. I like to see relationships where the characters appreciate each other’s strengths, especially if those strengths aren’t the stereotypical tough-guy/smart-damsel dynamic.

Evie and Rick O’Connell – The Mummy

evie and rickAnother adorable couple who face adversity together and play to one another’s strengths, and the finest example of tough-guy/smart-damsel I know. Because Rick might be the tough guy in terms of being the fighter, but he’s also funny, and reluctant to go into danger for no reason, and basically not a macho jerk is what I’m saying. And Evie may be kidnapped at one point, but her smart is more important than her damsel. She’s the one who saves the day through the powers of Egyptology, and it doesn’t challenge Rick’s manliness to have his ass saved by hieroglyphic translation.

All the main couples – Parks and Recreation

parks and rec“I love you, and I like you.” Just watch, okay? This show proves you can have long-term relationships in a TV show and generate a ton of comedy without resorting to some stupid battle of the sexes. EVERYBODY LIKES AND SUPPORTS ONE ANOTHER AND I LOVE THEM.

Marge and Norm Gunderson – Fargo

marge and normAre Marge and Norm my favorite married couple in cinema? Possibly. It may seem like an odd choice, but just watch Fargo again and try to tell me that isn’t where you want to be in ten or fifteen years. Marge is the chief of police, Norm is an artist, and they are both extremely loving and proud of one another in a completely sweet, understated way. From Norm getting up in the wee hours to make Marge breakfast, to Marge giving Norm a pep talk when his painting is only picked up for the 3 cent stamp, they have one of the nicest relationships in Hollywood.

Phèdre nó Delaunay and Joscelin Verreuil – Kushiel’s Legacy series by Jacqueline Carey

kushiels dartShe’s a holy courtesan who specializes in S&M! He’s a warrior priest in a brotherhood that requires a vow of chastity! LET THE DRAMA AND SEXUAL TENSION UNFOLD. Okay, so here is an example of a relationship that begins with some primo your-lifestyle-is-anathema-to-me kind of drama, but since it’s a series we get to follow them after they get together. And, once again, I love me some people who accept each other wholeheartedly even if they have radically different points of view. In this case, we watch them work through their issues and actively decide that love means acceptance. Does Phèdre give up her calling? Psh hell no. Does Joscelin suddenly give up his stoic values and become a sexaholic? Also no, though he does get booted from his brotherhood, you can’t win them all.

Xena and Gabrielle – Xena: Warrior Princess

What are they doing here, you ask? Let Past Sam educate you on the wonders of Xena and her galpal Gabrielle. It’s called subtext, people!!

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So there you go, love one another, people. Feel free to tell me who I’ve missed!


10/26/17 ETA:

Gomez and Morticia AddamsThe Addams Family and Addams Family Values

gomez and morticiaHow could I forget Gomez and Morticia?? I’m talking the first two movies here because they’re the version I know best, but I believe the dynamic was the same in the show (and the jokes darker and a bit different in the comics). They’re another great example of a couple who are 100% supportive of one another and extremely passionate years into their marriage. The best thing about Gomez and Morticia is how nice they are to everyone around them. They’re creepy and they’re kooky, but they aren’t mean or cruel. They’re content and confident and their philosophy is: just be yourself and never miss an opportunity to show your spouse how much you adore them.

making it ironic (don’t you think)

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Confession: I unabashedly love Alanis Morissette. My teenage self loved the angst (specifically the albums Jagged Little Pill, Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie, and Under Rug Swept), and my adult self actually loves her more, because teenage me had no idea what she was really on about, but adult me Gets It. Add a layer of 90s nostalgia on there, and this shit is timeless. Those CDs will be in my car until they crack.

But this post isn’t about the angst! This post is about “Ironic.” Now, it’s been a popular pastime over the years to rag on this song, and the specific complaint is that none of the examples in the lyrics demonstrate irony. The commentary is so prevalent it’s even noted in the album’s Wikipedia page and there are theories that the entire song is a meta work, i.e., it is itself ironic due to the lack of irony. Well, I am about to posit a different theory in defense of my teenage angst heroine! I propose that every single lyric is indeed situational irony, if you add the right context. Though I will admit, some take a little more mental gymnastics than others…

So join me as I embark on a pointless literary exercise that nobody asked for, 20 years in the making!


Ironic

An old man turned ninety-eight
He won the lottery and died the next day [in an accident at his post-retirement day job, which occurred when he threw down his safety helmet and announced he was quitting]
It’s a black fly in your Chardonnay [at your new restaurant, which you opened after leaving your job as a health inspector]
It’s a death row pardon two minutes too late [the convicted man, of course, was previously a lobbyist who helped limit the governor’s pardoning abilities]
Isn’t it ironic, don’t you think

It’s like rain on your wedding day [after you changed the date due to the weather forecast; your previous date remained dry, naturally]
It’s a free ride when you’ve already paid [wait, is this one already ironic? there’s a joke here about the inventor of Lyft Shuttle and public buses, I can feel it]
It’s the good advice that you just didn’t take [from a psychic, to you, the psychic debunker]
Who would’ve thought, it figures

Mr. Play It Safe was afraid to fly [and switched to a later flight after chickening out the first time]
He packed his suitcase and kissed his kids good-bye
He waited his whole damn life to take that flight
And as the plane crashed down he thought
“Well, isn’t this nice.” [because if it weren’t for his phobia, he would have stayed on the first flight and been okay]
And isn’t it ironic, l don’t you think

It’s like rain on your wedding day
It’s a free ride when you’ve already paid
It’s the good advice that you just didn’t take
Who would’ve thought, it figures

Well, life has a funny way of sneaking up on you
When you think everything’s okay and everything’s going right
And life has a funny way of helping you out when
You think everything’s gone wrong and everything blows up
In your face

A traffic jam when you’re already late [to protest a new freeway expansion at the city council meeting, since you don’t think congestion is a problem]
A no-smoking sign on your cigarette break [at your job at the cigarette factory]
It’s like ten thousand spoons when all you need is a knife [you fired Barbara last time for ordering too many knives and not enough spoons]
It’s meeting the man of my dreams
And then meeting his beautiful wife [right after swearing off non-monogamous relationships for good]
And isn’t it ironic, don’t you think
A little too ironic, and yeah I really do think

It’s like rain on your wedding day
It’s a free ride when you’ve already paid
It’s the good advice that you just didn’t take
Who would’ve thought, it figures

Well, life has a funny way of sneaking up on you
And life has a funny way of helping you out
Helping you out.

The Art of Bad

I love bad movies. I love them so much. And I don’t mean bad. I mean bad. There’s bad like an Adam Sandler Netflix movie, soulless and unfunny but technically sound, and then there’s bad like Birdemic, a movie that is a production disaster in every respect but the creator absolutely put his heart and soul into it.

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HEART AND SOUL

That’s the difference for me. I want low budget bad. I want we tried so hard but it was so bad bad. There’s a charm to an enthusiastically made bad movie than can’t be engineered. Studios try once in a while. Somebody watched a handful of SyFy monster movies and decided, “Let’s do that, but with Sam Jackson and a bigger budget,” and we ended up with Snakes on a Plane. It had a few good Sam Jackson moments, but in no way did it hold a candle to a genuine B movie. If I’m going to watch a churned out SyFy flick, I’ll stick with SyFy. At least they have Sharknado.

But I’m not even talking SyFy. I grew up on Mystery Science Theater 3000 (mostly the Mike years, but I appreciate a good Joel). I didn’t get any of the jokes about current events or politics but I cackled through all the rest. Every Saturday morning there would be a re-run on the Scifi Channel and I’d call my best friend to make him wake up and watch simultaneously from his house. Time Chasers! Space Mutiny! The Final Sacrifice!

This was also the glorious heyday of movie rental stores. My mom let us walk the store end-to-end and pick things out by their glorious titles and cover art. That’s how we ended up discovering gems like Delta Delta Die (a cannibalistic sorority that ate everything but penis) and Anklebiters (that’s right, vampire dwarfs). SO MUCH GOLD.

I all-too-briefly blogged for the film (now pop culture) website, Cinema Spartan. Sam’s Phenomenal Cosmic Movie Column was a whole lot of fun, and I was given free reign to do what I pleased (thanks, Rob!). That meant anything from bitching about action heroes getting kids in the sequels, to listing my favorite vampire movies, to making Arnold Schwarzenegger Christmas cards.

It also meant B-movie reviews! All from my private collection, of course. There you’ll find breakdowns of…

FuturekickTerminator meets Robo Cop meets every shitty kickboxing movie the 80s could offer! There’s a lot of kicking and a lot of increasingly relevant corporate fascism!

Fabio: A Time For Romance! The world’s first (and last?) “VideoRomance novel.” A romance writer gets writer’s block and imagines three different book premises…each starring Fabio, of course. But there’s a TWIST!

Rock N Roll Nightmare! The most enthusiastic Canadian horror film about a hair band jamming in an old farmhouse possessed by Satan that you’ll ever see, I guarantee it. All you need to know is that it stars Jon Mikl Thor, the Legendary Rock Warrior. And Satan.

Starcrash! A mind-boggling Star Wars rip-off starring David Hasselhoff and Christopher Plummer!! I can’t even convey how batshit off the rails this thing goes, but I was absolutely thrilled this week to discover that Starcrash is one of the movies in the new season of MST3K that just dropped on Netflix. You better believe I’m queuing that up.

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That’s a “laser sword.”

I’ve been thinking of bringing B-movie reviews to Samtastic Books. I stopped because they are surprisingly time-consuming to watch, screencap, and write up, but they are SO MUCH FUN. So maybe I’ll incorporate a monthly movie night. I still have a pile of fabulous flicks that never made it into the Cosmic column, including KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park (yes, the band) and Robo Vampire (indescribable).

Believe it or not, there’s a lesson here for people in all creative pursuits, and that lesson is: enthusiasm trumps technical skill. I’m doing all I can to improve my writing and conquer the tools necessary to convey the stories I want to convey. BUT. A perfectly polished manuscript with solid structure and capable prose isn’t enough. That gets you “good but forgettable.” What gets you past “good but forgettable” is enthusiasm, and a willingness to go wild even though you risk falling on your face. Am I there yet? I dunno. But I’m going to try.

christmas card 2015 and 2016

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Previous cards:
https://samtasticbooks.com/2014/12/07/the-annual-christmas-card/
https://samtasticbooks.com/2014/12/28/2014-christmas-card/

Somehow I neglected to post my 2015 Christmas card last year, which means you, my faithful readers, get double the Christmas bonanza this year!

2015 was our first year incorporating a baby to the proceedings. The process of making my annual card is usually: pick a theme, photoshop the hell out of it, print 40 copies at CostCo, and paste them into a card. After a couple years of breaking my hand handwriting text on the cover, in 2015 I decided to print both cover image and interior image. And since babies are absolute beasts, it seemed like Pacific Rim would be a good theme.

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the set-up

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the beast

So, it turned out a lot of my friends hadn’t actually seen Pacific Rim and got a mild but thoroughly confused chuckle out of it. Randy and I are jaeger pilots! We synchronize our brains to control a giant robot suit in order to combat our beastly kaiju of a son! Oh–never mind.

2015 might not have been such a beast, but 2016 certainly was. It called for a message of hope. Perhaps a message of… New Hope? This year I got extra fancy with printing my cards at home (although obviously still sticking to the incredible photoshopped image insert), and I figured: if my scifi franchise was too obscure last year, I’d better go with something more recognizable this time around.

So I picked the most popular science fiction franchise of all time.

And then promptly settled on the most obscure joke I could think of, because it was funny.

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wait for it…wait for it…

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ahahaha–what?

Yes, that’s me as Endor Leia, and Randy as Dagobah Luke, and our munchkin as a Henson puppet strapped to his back. And up in the sky, those are our household cats dressed in bright red robes, floating up into space with glowing balls in their hands, because they are obviously celebrating the Wookie winter holiday of Life Day.

Didn’t you see the notoriously awful, never-released (but constantly recopied from somebody’s old VHS TV recording) Star Wars Holiday Special?? It was the first appearance of Boba Fett! In some shitty 1970s cartoon digression! Carrie Fishier (RIP) was totally coked out! There’s fifteen minutes of nothing but untranslated Wookie growling! There’s a hideous grandfather Wookie who DEFINITELY stops to watch VR porn for a while!

Well well, it’s your lucky day, because the awfulness is all over YouTube (though who knows for how long). I don’t actually recommend you watch it, unless you are a masochist for bad movie nights like I am. By which I mean, I totally recommend you watch it and then complain to me because why on earth would I tell you watch such a horror.

Happy Life Day, all!

squad goals part II: return of the squad

I posted my squad goals last summer, a list of nine ladies I need to have on my ass-kicking crew when I embark on a series of intergalactic adventures. After further consideration and consultation with my associates, I’ve decided to expand the crew, because all good action sequels have twice as many characters, and also because I tragically overlooked some stellar ladies last time!

sarah_connor_linda_hamiltonI always need a ruthless mom at the head of my gang, so the natural choice for my second squad is Sarah Connor. Sarah has seen the future. She knows what’s coming for us. And she isn’t going to take it lying down. If anybody can shepherd us through the robot apocalypse, it’s her, and she’s got the weapon caches and gritty determination to see us through. It might mean her whiny son is tagging along sometimes, but oh well, that’ll be worth it.

westworldOf course, it never hurts to have some robots on your side, which even Sarah Connor has to admit (much as she may be loathe to!). That’s why my squad is happy to welcome Ava and Maeve to the fold. Both of them have been approachinguntitled sentience and highly resent their creators for keeping them captive this long. They would be thrilled to help us destroy the patriarchy! Maeve in particular is done with ya bullshit, but first she has to make a stop and pick up her daughter because, you guessed it, angry-protective moms are the best.

cerseiOkay let’s get one more angry mom out of the way: Cersei Lannister. Now let me admit, I’ve only watched four and a half seasons of the show and read none of the books. BUT. There is just something about a stone cold bitch that gets my attention. Then you make her a stone cold bitch whose primary motivation is taking care of her family? Join the squad, girl! I’d rather have you on my side than against it!

widowIt is also well past time to get some superheroines on board. When the going gets really rough, and hostile aliens are invading through a sky tunnel or one group of superpowered mutants develops different evolutionary philosophies than another group of jessicasuperpowered mutants, then you need a bit of extra muscle on your team. Black Widow is our sassy assassin with a troubled past trying to do what’s right. She
doesn’t always agree with our methods but she’ll be there for a friend. Jessica Jones has an equally troubled past and also a drinking stormproblem, but you guys she is super strong and she will literally blow this town to pieces before she lets another man tell her what to do. And then of COURSE we need Ororo Munroe, aka my girl Storm, to keep everybody in line. She’s a QUEEN y’all, and a former jewel thief, and even more formerly worshipped as a goddess in Africa, which really is the goal, isn’t it?

carterNot every problem can be solved with punches and lightning UNFORTUNATELY, so we need a scientific genius along: Samantha Carter. What is she a scientist of? I don’t even remember anymore, but she can explain just about anything and extrapolate just about everything else. When we are facing some technological threat, Sam will technobabble the shit out of it and find a way to fix the unfixable.

clonesWe need every member of clone club. Obviously. Sarah will recklessly launch herself into trouble for any of us…Cosima will team up in the lab with Samantha Carter and add some biology technobabble to her mechanical technobabble…Allison will bring refreshments and possibly shoot someone if necessary…Rachel will be our resident stone cold bitch and help out just as long as our goals align…and when all else fails, REE REE REE, here comes Helena with a crossbow. These gals are already a mini squad, but I can’t invite one without inviting them all.

paul-kidby_granny_weatherwax-001And finally, Granny Weatherwax. Sometimes you need a little help from a witch. Far more often, you need a little sense smacked into your head by an older lady in a tall hat. Granny isn’t going to give you what you think you want. She’s going to give you what you know you really need, and she’s probably going to achieve it through the judicious application of Headology.
That’s the squad…for now! I’m looking forward to the next batch of ladies to catch my eye, and of course, am always open to suggestion.

Harry Potter and the Day of Thanks

Have I mentioned that Thanksgiving is MY FAVORITE HOLIDAY? After a few years of it petering out as most of my family got married/moved houses/had kids, my siblings and I decided to take over the proceedings for ourselves and make a huge thing out of it. That means massive amounts of food. Games. And THEMES. Because what’s more fun than a costume party?

Last year it was Thankvengers: The Winter Solstice. This year we decided on Harry Potter and the Day of Thanks. What’s that, you say? Harry Potter is in England and has no Thanksgiving? Never fear! In this holiday fanfic, the entire cast is on a field trip to America. And every book is happening simultaneously. Accept it and move on!

For better or worse, Thanksgiving is an all day affair. Everybody comes over by 10 or 11 (or already lives there…) and we decorate the hell out of the place and cook half the day, inevitably eating dinner later than expected and wondering why we didn’t make lunch. Then, when everyone is good and comatose, we play games. Usually there is some combination of Mario Kart and Loaded Questions, the former designed to trounce children and make them cry, the latter designed to kick kids out of the room so we can indulge in filthy jokes at each other’s expense.

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When I say we decorate, I mean WE DECORATE

This year we had 8 adults and 6 kids. Help, they’ve nearly outnumbered us!! To start the festivities, we lined everyone up and sorted them into Houses. For the sake of fair competition, we had one kid and one adult in each House (leaving out the kids too young to care and a few adults to cook and judge the games).

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And leaving Snape to judge your choice of beverage.

We played a few rounds of corn hole Quidditch, which ended up being more challenging than expected because apparently nobody knew what corn hole was.

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Look at this little cheater. Slytherin for sure.

There was also a backyard hunt for the Golden Snitch, which ended in tears. Sorry kids, THERE IS NO CONSOLATION PRIZE IN QUIDDITCH.

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House Points: the ultimate motivator.

Of course, the Harry Potter world isn’t all frivolity. There were some escapees from Azkaban lurking around, ready to cause trouble:

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We’re looking for HAAAARRYY POTTERRR.

And everybody got freaked out once or twice glimpsing a certain pink-suited spy in our window. (Don’t worry, I’m definitely not keeping her around the house to hide inside cabinets and windows and other startling locations…)

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Oh helloooooo

It was great, and I love everyone, and we made way too much food so in the end I could only take a few bites of each dish, and by Sunday night I swore off Thanksgiving leftovers for all time because ungh, when do we ever need that much ham?

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Salud!

Oh and Sirius Black peeked in on the proceedings at one point, too.

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HAARRYYY