Review: Hair Story

Hair Story by Ayana Byrd and Lori Tharps

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Everyone has their own hair story. Mine focuses largely on attempting to maintain length without it developing sentience and killing me in the dead of night (that’s barely a joke; I’ve woken up several times in my life with my hair wrapped around my neck), seeing how long I can go without highlights before my natural hair color starts bothering me, and the occasional empty threat of shaving my head. (Hey, there could be a treasure map back there. How else will I know?) But for black women and especially for African-American women, their hair stories are complex, often painful, and always political. Fairly late in Hair Story, Ayana Byrd and Lori Tharps quote the screenwriter Lisa Jones: “Everything I know about American history I learned from looking at Black people’s hair. it’s the perfect metaphor for the African experiment here: the toll of slavery and the costs of remaining. It’s all in the hair” (158).

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Review: Fic

Fic by Anne Jamison

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I may not have been raised by fans, but I was raised on (and by) fandom. While I consider that first viewing of The Fellowship of the Ring in 2001 the revealing of my fannish destiny, I watched my first episode of Digimon in 1999. Add Internet access and the now actually lost Lost Temple of Ishida (a thousand blessings on the Wayback Machine, seriously), and I was reading and writing fanfiction well before I understood that I had the ability to wear different shoes on different days. I mean, I was nine years old when I got my first FanFiction.Net account. Given the shoddiness of my memory, I’ve practically never known a world without fanfiction.

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Review: Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs

Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs by Chuck Klosterman

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I was supposed to love Chuck Klosterman.

Hype is a treacherous thing, isn’t it? There’s a fine line between getting excited and getting so excited that the actual thing can never live up your expectations. It’s why I manage so precisely my own exposure to promotional material; I usually limit myself to a trailer or a cover these days. But what can you really spoil with essays on pop culture? (Asks the woman who waited until she read A Year of Flops to archive binge on Nathan Rabin’s titular online column.) After all, I’m a ravenous fan who adores meta and an avid reader of The A.V. Club and Grantland. Nathan Rabin was the first writer who made me text someone in despair over how I could never possibly write like that. Based on that, it’s only logical that I would think Klosterman was directly up my alley.

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Review: Among the Janeites

Among the Janeites by Deborah Yaffe

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Among the Janeites’ title is a bit misleading. It suggests a non-Janeite journeying forth to explore the alien world of the Janeites, recalling both the microgenre of year-long experiments and mainstream media rubbernecking at the strange habits of fans. Neither are particularly my cup of tea. Much to my relief, when author Deborah Yaffe says she is among the Janeites, she’s simply counting herself as one of them. She’s a literally card-carrying Janeite, having a member of the Jane Austen Society of North America (or JASNA) since 1974. In her almost forty years in the fandom, she’s seen Austen go from obscure but beloved writer to a commercialized pop cultural touchpoint.

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Review: Don’t Stop Believin’

Don’t Stop Believin’ by Brian Raftery

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If you’ve been reading this blog long, you’ll know that I adore bad music. The cheesier the more bombastic, and the more overproduced, the better, in my opinion. Accordingly, my karaoke song is “Total Eclipse of the Heart.” (I do both voices and, if the mood strikes, the synthesizer.) And yet, while wailing eighties power ballads to a crowd of strangers is a telling allegory for my life, I shy away from singing with people. It’s not stage fright—the public or an audience don’t register as “people” to me, so I can do that fine. It’s just that music, for me, can be intensely personal: I have songs that I adore that I will only listen to once in a very long while and songs I can’t listen to any more because they remind me of certain times in my life that I don’t want to revisit.

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Review: How to Watch Television

How to Watch Television edited by Ethan Thompson and Jason Mittell

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While I tell people that I didn’t start watching television “properly” until I was fifteen, it’s a bit of shorthand. It’s not that we didn’t watch television in my house growing up. My mother, a committed Anglophile of a Frenchwoman, watched (and continues to watch) Masterpiece Theater on a regular basis, and I, obviously, had both the time and access to watch I Love the 80s and imprint upon eighties pop culture like a duckling. Otherwise, my parents just didn’t watch primetime television shows, which meant that I was simply never exposed to even the concept. By the time Heroes rolled around and my pop culture junkie destiny was realized, all of my critical background, both taught and absorbed, was in literature. Since then, I’ve been working to expand my critical eye into other mediums. I’ve been paying specific attention to film (hello, Story of Film!) and comics (hello, Understanding Comics!), but seeing How to Watch Television on NetGalley reminded me that it was high time to officially tackle television.

Especially with the five shows I’ll be juggling this season.

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Review: Fangasm

Fangasm by Katherine Larsen and Lynn S. Zubernis

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While I love all fans equally (including and sometimes especially the tumblrinas), I have been known to give the Supernatural fandom a hard time. From where I stand in fandom, it’s an easy thing to fall into—a lot of the cases covered on fandom wank (a community dedicated to rubbernecking at bizarre fandom arguments, like John Ringo and John Scalzi’s recent disagreement) tend to come from that corner. But, I say to myself, it’s all in good fun. At the end of the day, being a fan means you’re part of the overarching family of fandom, and we look out for family. Even if it’s occasionally out of the corner of our eyes.

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Review: Slimed!

Slimed! by Mathew Klickstein

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As I’ve said to Ana, one of the many reasons that I read is to experience other lives—getting my extra lives in, as it were. Oral histories appeal to that reasoning, since, when done well, they’re one of the most efficient ways to see events from as many perspectives as possible. I love nothing better than contradiction in oral histories as people’s memories compare and contrast against others’. What better way to get an understanding of a moment, an experience, an event, than to see it from several angles? It’s a unique and vivid way to write about history.

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Review: Star Trek Lives!

Star Trek Lives! by Jacqueline Lichtenberg, Sondra Marshak, and Joan Winston

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As much as I (lovingly!) poke fun at tumblrinas (definition: any bright-eyed lady fan younger than me on tumblr), I realize that every generation of fan can say the same thing about the generation that comes after. Just as I shake my fist about how we used to have to wait for movies to come out to write fic about them, there’s a woman shaking her fist at me about how you used to have to join mailing lists to get your fix, and a woman shaking a fist at her about how you used to have to subscribe to ‘zines to get your fix. As the development of technology accelerates, fandom has definitely benefited. How else could JaegarCon happen mere weeks after Pacific Rim came out?

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Review: Best Food Writing 2011

Best Food Writing 2011 edited by Holly Hughes

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I think the reason I like food writing so much is because it’s both personal and, if done correctly, visceral. I say “visceral” instead of “sensual,” because the latter, with all its positive, sexy connotations, would exclude such repulsive magic as Pete Wells’ disappointed letter to Guy Fieri in lieu of a review of his restaurant in Times Square. Even people who aren’t foodies (those exist, right?) have certain foods that mean something to them, even if it’s just how to eat an Oreo. (A stance that can, apparently, start fights. As for myself, I’m in the “fried Oreos” camp.) It’s the relationship between eater and food that fascinates me, thus my interest in historical cooking.

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