Monday, August 31, 2015

A Street Cat Named Bob is a good read.

Last week I came across a free copy of the book “A Street Cat Named Bob – And How He Saved My Life.” By James Bowen. I heard about this book somewhere before, and a friend at work let me borrow it. I like real life stories of people who overcame the odds, so I was curious. James had ended up homeless and for some reason he turned to heroin to help him sleep on the streets. The story starts where James had made some progress. He has a low-income apartment and is taking a Heroin substitute drug that is part of a phase in order to eventually quit completely. His only source of income is playing guitar on the street in London for money. Then a homeless cat starts hanging around. James eventually helps Bob who has an injury and isn’t getting enough to eat.

The interesting thing is just having the cat motivated James to improve his life. Bob became his friend when the rest of the world ignored him. There are also some unexpected benefits of having Bob around. The story goes through all the difficulty James has trying to overcome both drug addiction and homelessness.

In general, the book is an example of how helping someone can only come back to you in good ways.

Anyway, it’s a short novel and only took me a few hours to read it over the weekend.

Check out the video of James and Bob.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Everyone Loves a Skinny, Female Stock Character

Today, I have Miri Castor here to talk about trends in female characters. Thanks for being here today Miri.


Marvel movies are a blast to watch. If you’ve seen the more recent ones like The Avengers: Age of Ultron, or Antman, then you know exactly what I’m talking about. The action (more like the CGI), the corny one-liners, and the secret endings make them an enjoyable experience. Then there’s the one badass woman who likes kicking and doing acrobatic takedowns on the evil henchmen, and the one genius woman who’s a scientist and uses her brains to aid the superhero. In a world where women are objectified, glamorized, and glorified for their appearances, girls admire these token heroines because that’s all we got. I know I did when I was in my teens and my nerdiness was at its pinnacle. As I got older though, I began to notice a glaring pattern in the heroines I had admired-they were always skinny.
                I was beginning to wonder, “How come none of these heroines are ever fat? Not even a bit chunky?” People would tell me like it was a fact, “Fat women are unhealthy and can’t move around as much, duh.”  We instinctively correlate healthiness and fitness with skinny women, unhealthiness and laziness with fat women. But it’s wrong-being fat has to do with many factors other than food and a lack of exercise.  Associating thick thighs and chubby bellies with junk food and laziness is-well, lazy. Similar to the extreme end of skinniness, being morbidly fat comes with a slew of health problems. But you’re telling me Marvel can’t feature a woman with plump thighs as a love interest? A biophysicist? A sidekick? All of the above?
                Now you’ve probably assumed that my upcoming novel is full of fat female characters doing unrealistic backflips and jump kicks. You’re wrong-I have one. Adaeze, one of the denizens of the alternate world my protagonist Opal has to save, has got thick thighs and isn’t stick skinny. She’s got the brains and the brawn-if scifi/fantasy authors can create female alien races with two tails, one eye, blue skin, and four arms-and always making them slim if they’re love interests-I’m sure they can create a thick-boned alien girl. It’s 2015, we can have fat women in combat that doesn’t involve crashing into cars or rolling around on the ground for laughs. We can have fat women who create superweapons in their sleep, and have different kinds of fat women as our token heroines (until equality becomes a part of society, which I think will take a while). We can have heroines with thick thighs that save lives.
I think it’s high time we stop over-representing one type of female stock character, especially in the sci-fi genre. Apparently, every female alien, superhuman, and sidekick love interest exists as a size two.  At this point, you’re definitely rolling your eyes and saying, “Look at this bitter, fat girl who’s trying to write a novel about fat women fighting and being smart.” You are again, terribly wrong! I’m a skinny, twenty-one year old who’s grown bored of seeing the same type of women in my favorite books, my movies, and in the media.


Miri's book "The Path to Dawn" is soon to be released. You can find out more about Miri here...

Monday, August 10, 2015

Man from U.N.C.L.E. Movies Hopes.

A new Man from UNCLE Movie is coming out August 14th based on the 1960’s TV series. Once again, an old TV series is being brought back to the big screen. Usually, I scoff at this trend, but I used to be a fan of The Man from UNCLE, so this time I’m interested. Back in my high school days, I discovered it in reruns on a Canadian channel thanks to my Dad who watches any sort of action series. It was around the 1980’s and it was old then, but to me it was like brand new, even though the first year was in black and white.

The Canadian channel in Windsor just didn’t have this show on enough for me. It was only once a week on a Sunday evening if I was lucky. Then things got worse when they moved it to 11 p.m. This was before I even had VHS, so I would stay up and watch the reruns. Nobody else in school knew anything about The Man from UNCLE and I only shared my interest in it with close friends. If only I would’ve had the internet and Amazon…I would have ordered the series.

I’ve seen all the episodes and the movies, including Return of the Man from UNCLE, which people said was good for nostalgia. 

This flashed on the screen at every scene change. 

Just for those who haven’t watched it. UNCLE stands for United Network Command for Law Enforcement. These are the good guys. The bad guys are known as THRUSH, which stands for the Technological Hierarchy for the Removal of Undesirables and the Subjugation of Humanity. I'm not sure if THRUSH is going to be involved in the new movie. They only say there will be a mysterious organization they will be against.

The interesting thing about UNCLE is that it’s an international organization, so it’s not like the usual America versus Russia. Instead, you have Solo (an American) working with Illya (a Russian.) to go against a mutual enemy.

Part of the reason why the series was a success is Napoleon Solo (Robert Vaughn) and Illya Kuryakin (David McCallum) were interesting characters. Solo had a certain style about him that was unique. He wasn’t just like James Bond. Then Kuryakin was mysterious with a vague backstory. I always wanted to know more about him, but they liked keeping him that way. 

Original Solo and Kuryakin

The first two years of the series were good and then it really dissolved into being a light comedy that wasn’t working very well. UNCLE was never meant to be taken too seriously, but I always felt it needed to be more serious. It was obvious they didn’t have much of a budget back in those days, but I always imagined it as if it had more realistic technology to pull off the scenes. Today’s audience would just laugh at the old mid 1960’s version.

I kept watching it because I have always seen the potential in it. I’m also a James Bond fan and UNCLE was supposed to be sort of a branch off of that sort of spy movie.

I like the trailer so far and it seems Solo and Kuryakin don’t get along at first. I think that’s going to be a good way to stir up some initial conflict.

So I hope to have a positive review soon! Don't worry, I won't be swayed by those handsome faces.  

Check out the trailer.