Rue the Day: Racial Commentary & The Hunger Games.

Suzanne Collins did not write a book about a dystopian society wherein only white people were foregrounded in a plot to overthrow a totalitarian state. In fact, she pretty explicitly states that the characters of Rue and Thresh, tributes from District 11, have “dark skin.” In this future, there is no buying into the social constructions of race (one thing they did right) but that doesn’t mean she was not making a pointed social comment when she made the little girl, so like the sister for whom Katniss volunteered to potentially die for, black.

When i read The Hunger Games for the first time, i saw Rue as a symbol for interracial empowerment and unity in two key ways: the first were the aforementioned parallels between her and Prim and, consequentially, Katniss’ vision of Rue being one of love unblinded by skin color. The second was her tragic, undue, and horrific death; coming from District 11, which we can guess by the general descriptions of weather and distance is meant to be somewhere in the South (Central Florida? Alabama?) this, to me, read as a pointed comment against segregation and racism across America, but most viscerally apparent in the southern US. Rue was a character who functioned to illustrate the horror of the Games, but also was so beautifully crafted in her intelligence and ability to survive that she still very much existed within the realm of Collins’ fleshed-out, human, believable cast.

Furthermore, i actually always pictured Katniss as being a woman of mixed race/color herself. While i love Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss (and, let us remember, not all racial backgrounds are immediately apparent because race is socially constructed) i had always inferred by Collins’ description of Katniss being a woman of “olive skin” and dark hair that she was a woman of some American Indian ancestry. When she was initially cast, i was a little bit disappointed. However, her performance, as i mentioned earlier today, was so stellar she was such a natural choice for the role.

In fact, if you look closely at the demographic breakdown of the residents of District 12, you’ll notice all the people of more privilege are described as being “fair.” Peeta, who comes from one of the town dwellers, has blonde hair and a pale complexion, much like Katniss’ mother who was a woman of more status prior to marrying Katniss’ dark-haired father. For these loose (but pointed) allusions to a potentially racially-driven class divide that Collins was using to deepen the commentary. While i was sad to, in some way, lose this with Lawrence’s casting, i recognize that Collins was instrumental in choosing her and that the references to Katniss as at least partially American Indian are, after all, very scant. And, may i reiterate: Lawrence herself could very well have American Indian ancestry, because race inherently by its nature of being socially constructed, confines our perception of what “American Indian” or “white” look like in ways that are often not applicable to the masses labeled with such terms.

But still. The point remains: the people who are tweeting that they were “disappointed” that a black girl was cast as Rue is, frankly, disgusting. To express such bigoted and racist views is so contrary to these subtle, poignant commentaries Collins interlaced with her broader statement against consumerism, capitalism, and the military-industrial complex. And clearly, these people didn’t read the books with much care. These tweets and opinions represent everything the Capitol stands for: a place of discrimination, exploitation, and unmitigated privilege at the expense of mass groups of oppressed people. I normally try to stray away from going preach-y on other fans, but the popularity of these horrible, prejudiced views is hurtful, frustrating, and SO NOT THE POINT OF THE STORY COLLINS CRAFTED.

The Hunger Games, at its core, is a book about overcoming adversity in the face of odds that are most certainly not in your favor. A struggle not unlike that faced by all oppressed groups in this country. I think we all do remember this, as fans of the story and as human beings.

current jam: ‘abraham’s daughter’ arcade fire

best thing: the hunger games soundtrack.

*I know this is double-posting in one day, which breaks all conventional blogging rules. But, per request (thanks, Gabs!) and per my own interest in the matter, i wanted to write about this while it was still fresh on my mind. Thanks for sticking with me, friends!

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Birthday Bliss Blogging Hangover.

Whew, ducklings, this has been a voraciously active week of Birthday Bliss; i am in need of some serious tea-drinking and eye-mask-wearing.

I cannot thank Becca Clemens enough for her hysterical guest post on Tuesday; it seriously is one of the funniest things i’ve ever read, and i’m so flattered she consented to publish her genius here! We both had such a raucous time swapping blogs that i feel secure hinting at another blog swap in the future!

Additionally, much gratitude is due to ALL of you who entered the giveaway. Your tweets, tumblr likes, and comments were both much appreciated and spread cheery nerd-love across the waves of cyberspace. Congratulations again to all the winners – you should be getting some mail from me in the next two weeks! Most especially, congratulations to yesterday’s winner, Hattie for tweeting the link to yesterday’s blog about JK Rowling! Thanks to everyone else who entered – may you find the book in another way!

However.

I may be a full endorser of a healthy competition and learning how to lose with dignity (blah blah, etc, etc) but … i also like to be inclusive. (And i happened to have accidentally ordered 100 of the “nerdy and i know it” postcards). So, to thank you all for your sweet comments and kind insights, i am pleased to say that ANYONE who entered into the giveaway and did not win will still receive a postcard from me!

Yes. Not lying. I’m going broke on postage for all of you, ducklings.

Should you like a postcard from me (with a love note, naturally. i’ll even spritz it with perfume like they did in the golden days, if you like) email your mailing address to lizziemcmizzie@gmail.com with the subject line being “Postcard Giveaway” and you’ll also get a singular “nerdy and i know it” postcard in the mail sometime in the next two weeks! It’s because you’re a shining golden star in the night sky, loves.

But for now, i’m going to crawl under the covers, weeping for the fat stack of papers needing writing and readings needing consuming. College. Unending agony done out of a place of passion. As Ron Weasley would say in Trelawney’s class circa his third year at Hogwarts, “You’re going to suffer…but you’re going to be – happy – about it.”

See you on the other side, folks. Thanks for reveling with me.

current jam: “could i leave you?” performed by julie andrews, written by stephen sondheim. 

best thing in my life right now: nerds.

JK Rowling is Writing Another Book!

The news broke forth far and wide across the internet on Thursday morning: JK Rowling has publicly announced that, not only is she writing once more, she is publishing another book. It is not an addendum or addition to the beloved and brilliant Harry Potter series; rather, it is a book for adults released with a new publisher, Little, Brown.

And that, friends, is quite literally all we know at present about the upcoming, undefined-release-date of Rowling’s next work of written art.

But when you’re a multi-billionaire literary genius, all you need do is drop a juicy hint and you’ll have half the world’s literate population salivating over the promise of a new book and scouring the internet for potential clues. For myself, knowing only the above about JK Rowling’s new work (or, as i refer to her in my casual speech (and in my head), “Jo”) was enough to reduce me to jubilant tears, galloping about the room like a gargoyle, and yelping into the phone as i called every potterhead in my contacts list to blubber and shriek for Felix-Felicis-esque ecstasy. A simple tweet from Jo yesterday morning nearly instigated a similar fit of geekish delight: “As you may have heard, I have a new book out later this year. Very different to Harry, although I’ve enjoyed writing it every bit as much.”

As you might have heard. What incredible modesty. Might have heard. I’ve only tweeted, reblogged, posted, and interpretive danced my way around the virtual and physical world for the past 48 hours reveling in this tiny, might-have-heard-of-it story. Good grief, Jo, you’re precious and practically perfect in every way.

I really could not think of a better subject to be musing about on the exact one-year anniversary date of this here blog. My second-ever post was, naturally, about being abroad during the release of the final film – and i hardly believe this will be the last Potter-related ramble to make its way here.

And i know, i know what the trolls in reality and online are about to say: You know it’s not going to be another Harry Potter book, right? (It helps if you say that in your best circa-1984-stereotypical-jock-in-a-high-school-mive-starring-Molly-Ringwald voice). Yes, friend, i am fully aware – and thrilled – that Jo is not only writing again, but writing something other than a Potterworld novel.

Obviously, i love everything to do with Hogwarts and Dumbledore’s Army and the Deathly Hallows (i am, after all, getting a tattoo in two years of the Deathly Hallows mark). And were Jo to suddenly announce she were writing another Potter book, i would be thrilled. There would not be an ounce of hesitation in me; regardless of whether it were a prequel or extended epilogue to the tales already published. She gave us seven beautiful books over the course of some ten-odd years, and while i loved the conclusion to the final book, i know anything else she wrote would be equally superlative.

Because, ultimately, i trust Jo Rowling.

Which is why, in the knowledge that this book is “very different to Harry” i couldn’t be more ecstatic. Of course there won’t be thestral-drawn carriages and thrilling Quidditch matches, but my love for Harry Potter resists the simplicity of being reduced to the clever world Jo created. It is a passion for the writing, for the power of love expressed in the characters, and for the incredible storytelling by which Jo coaxes the reader to fall right into the palm of her verbosity-woven hand. Jo did not write seven children’s books; she created a fantastical, whimsical, believable, and vibrantly stunning world that enticed the readers to enter. Regardless of whether or not this next book is going to be even remotely within the fantasy genre, i truly believe her ability to create a fantasy world (even if that world is present-day [muggle] London or Hammersmith or wherever) will draw me in regardless. Naturally, i will enter the book expecting her dry British wit and clever plot twists, but that is a credit her writing more so than it is to the stories rendered at her hand. I trust Jo Rowling in all of her writing endeavors, and i pledge now to read this book – whatever it might be, whenever it may be released – with a mind free from expectations of owls delivering the morning post.

Because, lest i forget, even living in a country where there were only two movie theatres (to my knowledge) did not stop me from seeing Part 2 of the film when released. That’s the power of a good book; yesterday, i stumbled across this quote by Emma Thompson: “I think books are like people, in the sense that they’ll turn up in your life when you most need them.”

As i have grown into my adulthood i have pledged to never let Harry go. I’ve said a thousand times. But i know, most viscerally, that as i grow older the stories will shape and change me in new ways, for i will never be the thirteen-year-old experiencing the Order of the Phoenix for the first time ever again. Nor do i want to be. Harry came into my life at the exact right time; i was six-and-a-half, precociously reading big chapter books (at the hearty encouragement of my mother) when we met. It was to be a life-long friendship. When i was fourteen and the final book came out, i felt as though i was in a summer that transformed me fully into adolescence. I was no longer a child; i traveled to Uganda for the first time, and i knew the conclusion to the Potter saga. This past summer, at the age of eighteen, i fulfilled a dream long-held to live in Uganda – and i saw the final film installment of the cinematic adaptations of the books. That summer, to me, marks the full entrance into my young adulthood. It’s a scary place, looming beyond graduation with electricity bills and undefined next steps and the abyss of what might be and what could never happen.

(Left: This past summer at the Oasis mall in Kampala City right before seeing the film; Right: In the Nairobi Airport around August 10th, 2007)

It just might be that this new “book for adults” Jo is writing will come at the right time. Or perhaps it will simply be a jolly good read – either would be marvelous. But i’m not easily persuaded life is mere coincidence.

And it is for this very reason i am giving away one of the newest additions to my “Desert Island Books” today: The Fault in Our Stars. May whomever you are be someone who needs this book, and needs it now.

Ways you can enter the giveaway:

1. Tweet the link to the blog (be sure to mention me in the same tweet, so i can keep track!).

2. Follow me on twitter (and tell me in an additional comment).

3. Post the link to this blog on your facebook status (and let me know you’ve done so in an additional comment!).

4. Follow Wandering Writes on WordPress or by some other method (and let me know you’ve done so in an additional comment!).

5. And, of course, by answering the comment question! Best of luck to you all!

Comment Question: What are your thoughts on JK Rowling writing a new book?

Yesterday’s Winner: Larry, for commenting with his Desert Island movie being “JAWS.” Congratulations, Larry! Also, a special shout-out to Hattie for responding to yesterday’s post with a blog of her own! For this, Hattie, i’d like to offer you five of the “nerdy and i know it” postcards! Thanks for such an awesome response!

current jam: “mischief managed” nicholas hooper.

best thing in my life right now: Jo Rowling has written another book. does this need further explanation?

The Eleven Desert Island Film Collection.

Okay, so i know if i’m in fact stranded on a desert island the chance that there would be a way to watch any sort of films would be about approximate to my chances of being elected to the Scottish Parliament this year. And were i to make a new home in Edinburgh, tottering about with piles of legislation to enact, the likelihood that i’d remain deserted on an island with plasma TVs would be, well, next to nil. Unless, of course, that desert island had parties where goodie bags were filled with 50-inch plasma screen TVs.

Inigo Montoya is not left-handed.

I digress.

The point of such questions – what five movies would you take with you on a desert island and the like – are meant to uncover one’s comfort movies, favorite-for-all-time movies, and (most important of all) employed on first dates to see if you’re future daddy/mammy material. Let’s just be real, okay?

So when i consider my Desert Island Movies, i have to be very clear: this is not an exclusive, “favorite movie” list. In fact, i find the “favorite movie” question to be (no surprise here) really hard to answer. I mean, there are the movies that make me think and stay with me in ways reflective in the every day – but aren’t necessarily movies i want to watch more than two or three times (like Children of Men or For Colored Girls). Then, there are movies that i just find comforting; movies i want to watch when i’m sick or feeling miserable, like Mary Poppins or The Hunchback of Notre Dame (Disney version, obviously). And how could i neglect the movies that i love for their political and social connotations – the kind of titles i like to drop at fancy academic cocktail parties to glean approving nods for my brainpower, like Iron Jawed Angels or Cry, the Beloved Country. Naturally, how could i exclude films that make me laugh? Pirate Radio and Bridesmaids have earned their places on my shelf-of-favorites.

Yet desert island movies rest in a special category: they are the movies that are, simultaneously, ones i can watch over and over again without growing tired of the plot twists and character developments. There are movies for sickness, movies that will never leave you, movies that cover the breadth and depth of your cinematic tastes and personality. It’s a well-honed list; one subject to change, but unlikely to.

Thus, with no further ado, i give you:

The Eleven Films Lizzie Would Take to the Dharma Initiative Desert Island

(And, yeah, i know. Eleven. I’m bad at cutting things out! SORRY GEEZ).

#1. The Princess Bride: I feel as though this goes without saying. If ever there were one singular film that i think everyone who has an abounding love for a good story should see, it would be this one; there’s a dashing hero, a bewildered princess, conniving villains, revenge, and sweepingly fantastic comedic lines worthy of being quoted and re-quoted for generations. As you wish!

#2. V for Vendetta: When asked for a favorite film of all-time, this ties with The Princess Bride, despite the enormous and obvious genre and stylistic gap between the two. I will say, though, both films are abrim with brilliant one-liners (my favorite from this film: “Because behind this mask there is more than a man; there is an idea. And ideas are bulletproof!”). I first discovered this film at Governor’s School (2008) and have since been filled with an inexplicable zeal that the whole of the world will never be right until we all sit down and watch this film, after which we engage in a radical conversation about violence in our societies. Also, the references to Twelfth Night peppering the dialogue is enough to make my Bard heart swoon with delight.

#3. Sense and Sensibility: The Emma Thompson/Kate Winslet/Alan Rickman version from 1995, naturally. To satiate my hapless romantic sensibilities with the beautiful and dashing words of Jane Austen. Also, to look at Alan Rickman. Yeah, that too.

#4. The Sound of Music: On a rainy day in the third grade, my teacher decided to keep us inside during recess,  putting on a movie to keep us entertained in the absence of dirt-eating and monkey-bars-playing merriment. It was love at first sight; within a week, my hair was bobbed and the soundtrack at home in my CD-player, where is was spun no less than twelve hours a day. I sought out hills to spin in circles on the top of and wrote fan letters to Julie Andrews like it was my job. Nothing could ever come between me and this film; it taught me to love to sing, comforts me when i’m down, and such true love lasts a lifetime.

#5. Breakfast at Tiffany’s: For the mean reds. Also, to prance around pining to be as classic as Audrey Hepburn. And the kiss with the cat in the rain. Those are the best kind.

#6. Stardust: Pirates in a dirigible boat, Neil Gaiman-written adventures, and a good-old-fashioned adventurous love story. It’s simple escapism with a dash of whimsy added in for good measure!

#7. Lord of the Rings: Return of the King: Okay, choosing just ONE from the trilogy was nigh-on impossible, but i could not pass up the most epic Eowyn moment of all time in the battle for Gondor (even if it meant losing some of my favorite Merry-Pippin sequences). And, you know, that heartbreaking song Billy Boyd wrote for when Faramir is leading the charge on Osgiliath. Makes me cry every time. While i may not profess my love for Lord of the Rings quite as much online (perhaps because it is a little older (but i imagine once The Hobbit comes out, this will change)) i can, quite literally, quote the entirety of The Fellowship of the Ring verbatim along to the film. I had “one ring to rule them all” that i never took off my finger for about three years in a row, and stashed in the back of my closet are two of my favorite full-length posters of Legolas. No judging. He was hot stuff  when i was thirteen.

#8. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II: I feel like this needs no explanation; i saw it in Africa, sobbing like a baby the whole way through. Harry is forever for me.

#9. Moulin Rouge!: In the vein of epic romances comes in this film, overflowing with beautiful appropriated music and the lavish, brilliant direction of Baz Luhrman. I love everything about this film; its weirdness, the quirky cult following it has acquired over the last ten years, and its bohemian praise of truth, beauty, freedom, and love.

#10. Into the Wild: It seems in cinema, as in literature, i am endless looking for my Alaska. Few movies moved me the way this artistic interpretation of Chris McCandless’ journey did – and, as a grown-up-Haulden-Caulfield, i need to keep what’s not phony nearby.

#11. Up: Unquestionably my favorite Pixar film in every element – the dog, the curmudgeonly old man, and, most of all, the redefinition of adventure. I’ve never made it through this film without sobbing like a baby (perhaps to the unnerving of all around me…alas. I swear i don’t cry at any other film except the ones mentioned here).

And there you have it! The desert island collection, or whatever. It seems, as i reflect on the eleven films chosen, i have an affinity for terribly sad or moving epic adventure stories with love being the central lesson. Call me a sap. Or in the wrong universe/time period.

Comment Question: What are YOUR desert island films? Or at least one or two of them! (Rules for the giveaway are here if you need a refresher!)

Yesterday’s Winner: Kate Farley, for following the blog! Congrats, Kate!

current jam: “my favourite things” from the sound of music (obviously).

best thing in my life right now: i’ve just been cast in the 25th annual putnam county spelling bee as “vice principal panch” at mount holyoke!

The Fault in Our Stars: Revisited.

From the open love letters i have composed so frequently to the writings rendered by John Green, it is no secret i am a fervent member of his cult of nerdfighters follower of his philosophies. My admiration from him stems from both his body of work as one half of the vlogbrothers with his hilarious and vivacious brother, Hank Green, and more deeply from his written artistry manifested in his novels. My favorite was, until recently, Looking for Alaska.*

In January, i had the beautiful opportunity to see John and Hank speak as part of the tour for the release of John’s latest book, The Fault in Our Stars. John said then – and has reiterated in many of his videos – that this was the book he had been writing for us for over ten years. His use of the phrase “writing for you” alone already was enough to fill me with unbridled anticipation to read it; knowing he had, in fact, written it for us made me beside myself. Having read almost everything he’d published prior to this, i knew that such longevity spent with his words must have made a masterpiece of them.

It did.

When i reflected on meeting John here, on Wandering Writes, i devoted my energy to thinking about the meaning of meeting your heroes. John Green is, in every sense of the word, what i believe to be a contemporary philosopher. He is utterly human in his admitted flaws and yet afflicted with the imperial sense of cosmic chaos and meaning indelible to those of Great Minds. I said then, and i think it bears repeating, that i don’t mean to idealize him (i think he would be genuinely worried to hear someone call him perfect) but i do believe he is an incredible voice in a generation in need of incredible leaders. Meeting him was humbling and human.

All this, before i had even so much as cracked open the spine of the book for which the tour had been commenced. In a multitude of facets, i am profoundly grateful for this; i was a blubbering, molasses-on-my-tongue fool enough having only read his previous works. Reading the culmination of his genius thus far was riveting enough to have reduced me to an absolute puddle in such circumstances.

Without betraying anything key to the plot or characters, i will say this: The Fault in Our Stars broke me down and patched me up in the way childhood once felt. The complexity of human existence amidst the disillusionment that comes with growing older seemed to, bizarrely, crumble while my hands were wrapped about the cover and my attention engulfed in the story. Reading the story, i simply was. Infinity was tangible. Then, of course, i finished the book and all the uprooting-to-my-core emotions suspended for the sake of being able to see the words on the page came pouring out. My stomach, i realized, had been clenched in a knot so tight i hardly breathed the whole book through. It was as if, for those twenty-four hours i spent in various curled-up positions engrossed in the book, i was no one. A human swept up in a story.

And then, with the closing of the last page, reality hit, and so did the beauty and destruction of the story. I know this sounds like the stuff of creative writing professorial nightmares – phrases plagued with sweeping statements that would make even Nathanial Hawthorne cower in vocabular fear – but i am being as genuine as i can be. This book went from being a work of art – a lie telling the truth – to lived reality. The truth unveiled consumed me.

I didn’t write up my reflections here, for i wanted to hold on to them for a while. Let the swirl of whisked-up sadness and truth and cosmic chaos brood. I’m still not done processing (i don’t think anyone really ever can be) and even these very words are only hands run along the top of the water. They aren’t plunged in, enveloped.

Such an experience belongs to the reader. And while my own torrents of comprehension are still in need of hashing out, i don’t think i want to do that all here. Not for lack of love for you, but rather because i want to give you the gift of reading the book yourself, making your own claims and dissensions and celebrations. For this reason, on the official first birthday of Wandering Writes (this approaching Saturday, the 25th) the last prize to be given away will be nothing other than a signed copy of John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars:

This is not, of course, the copy that he himself personalized for me; it is unread by myself and waiting for someone to drink in its wisdom and folly. May it find a loving home with you, whomever you may be.

For today and tomorrow, though, the giveaway will continue to be nine “nerdy and i know it” postcards (with the bonus tenth one from my globetrotting collection!). Rules and such are here!

Comment Question: What book fills you with inexplicable zeal or passion or longing?

Yesterday’s Winner: Kenzie for tweeting the link to the blog! Congrats, Kenzie! (sorry for the delay! The internet on campus went down last night!)

current jam: “permafrost” laurena segura

best thing in my life right now: the mountain goats.

*If these names are ringing in empty ears (that is to say, you have no freaking clue what i’m talking about) might i direct you to this video. Welcome. DFTBA.

Birthday Week of Giveaway Bliss and Stuff!

Greetings Ducklings,

As you all may very well know (or not, that’s why the sentence will be blue with a link) i kind of hoard postcards. Seriously. I’m still waiting for A&E to call me up and see if i’m interested in being featured on the show and everything (perhaps i need another five years before the collection is piled up enough to make for super-dramatic reality TV). And if this isn’t a major turn-off for further reading, i commend you. Slash, i’m wondering if you too collect weird things – or totally normal things, just in ridiculous abundance.

Wait, how did we get here?

Postcards. Right.

SOOOOO if you’re still with me, i have a bit of surprise for you: a week-long celebration involving the giving away of presents. It is, after all, the one-year birthday celebration of Wandering Writes! STUFF YOUR FACE WITH CAKE AND STUFF.

One year ago this approaching Saturday i wrote and posted my first-ever blog post on Wandering Writes. Granted, that was back when we were hosted on blogspot, but the URL differed only in the host. It’s been a year of learning, of honing my writing skills, making plenty of mistakes, taking lost of pictures, journeying to five countries; a year of over 200 comments, 150 blog posts, and (between Blogspot and WordPress) over 15,000 page views.

I kind of can’t believe this. I don’t mean to come off as a braggy self-congratulating jerk, but i would be totally lying to you if i didn’t say i am humbled and incredibly happy with these small milestones. A year ago, i knew i loved to write – it’s been a primary passion of mine for years (ten journals and endless unfinished word documents account for this). But, outside of academic writing, i never shared much of these musings with anyone else. To be brave enough to do so is already something i am proud of; it being so warmly received is both affirming and a deeper, more invigorating challenge than i could have posed to myself with an audience of only one.

So, thank you. Whether you’re my parents and you’ve been reading every single one of these since i started publicly chronicling my trips and post card obsession and cat love, or a newcomer searching “ministry of magic visitor entrance” (let’s be friends) or “colorful bacteria colony” (how did you end up here?) thank you for thinking this worthy enough of your time. I hope i can live up to your expectations in the coming year – and it has been a real pleasure entering into this conversation with you this past annual.

And, in order to thank you for embarking on this voyage with me, i have a few treats for you!

I started this post talking about post cards and a week-long celebration…so without any further ado, i give you: lizzie mcmizzie’s WEEK OF GIVEAWAY BLISS AND STUFF.

Every day this week, there will be blog posts for your enjoyment – but these posts will not be your average, run-of-the-mill ramblings. Each day will be a post utterly unique to all my previous run-on rants (think: guest bloggers (as mentioned yesterday), podcasts, that sort of thing…). With every one of these five days of blogging bamboozlement i will be giving away a set of nine custom-made postcards designed by yours truly! If i do say so myself, they’re pretty boss, but i’ll let you decide that for yourselves:

Annnd, just to cap off the excitement, in each set of nine i will include a bonus tenth postcard from my personal collection amassed from across the world with a personalized note just for you. Don’t you feel special.

How do you win these little delights, you may ask?

I’m so obliged. There are a few rules; first among them, you must live in the Continental United States, Canada, or the UK to enter* and you may only win once. To enter, leave a comment at the end of each day’s blog post answering the daily comment question. Today’s comment question is this: what weird things do you collect, and why? 

This automatically enters your name once, but you can enter your name an additional four times by doing the following:

1.Tweet the link to the day’s blog post and mention me in the same tweet (@lizziemcmizzie).

2. Post the link to the day’s blog post to your facebook and send me a screenshot of you doing so on twitter or in an additional comment.

3. Follow me on twitter. Come back to let me know you’ve done this in an additional comment including your twitter name in said additional comment.**

4. Subscribe to Wandering Writes via email, the RSS feed, or on WordPress. Tell me you have done this in an additional comment. **

YOU MUST SAY YOUR NAME IN EVERY COMMENT YOU LEAVE. No “anonymous” winners! The contest opens every morning at 8:00 AM EST and closes every night at 11:30 PM EST. Winners will be selected by the List Generator tool on random.org with person #1 receiving the prize. The winner will be announced in the blog post the following day.

On the sixth day, Saturday, there will be an extra-special giveaway (even more special than these freak-flag waving works of art) so you should also stay tuned for that!

Okay, ducklings! Happy tweet-a-leeting and collecting!

current jam: “let you down” ardie collins (he’s swell! listen to it and check him out here!)

best thing in my life right now: i’m nerdy and i know it, what’s better than that?

*Sorry, super-international folk!! Shipping is expensive and i’m kind of broke!

**If you already follow me on twitter or are subscribed to Wandering Writes (in any capacity) tell me so in an additional comment. You can tell me this, via your additional comments, every day! 

The Fault in our Stars

nerdfighters and our books!

(i wrote this last night after returning from the TFIOS tour…alas, the internet failed to put it up then so i’m posting it a little late. i beg of your forgiveness)

Tonight, i saw John and Hank Green. Tonight, i heard John Green read aloud from his most recent work – what some are saying to be the best book he’s yet written – and scarcely breathed the whole twenty minutes he was reading it aloud. Tonight, Hank Green sang about how he wished his high school had been Hogwarts instead. Tonight, the show ended with the brothers singing (my most favorite song in the world) ‘I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)’ by The Proclaimers.’

in the signing line. the mountain goats lyric from ‘how to embrace a swamp creature’ came to mind: i try to tell you just why i’ve come/ it’s like i’ve got molasses on my toungue.

To say the least, i’m floating on a bit of a nerdy internet cloud of wonderment and thrill.

Together, as i mentioned in my Internet Blog Series Thingymabob, the Green brothers have created and fostered this worldwide community of nerdfighters. People who are reclaiming the term “nerd” as an insult and (to paraphrase John Green (again)): accepting such a term as a congratulation for being intelligent, informed, and inquisitive human beings. A community that celebrates intellectualism and silliness, stirring up conversations in radically new ways with the help of online communication – one i am so content to be a part of. Together, the brothers do this in their weekly videos, but more expansively they have spawned some incredible projects to fight worldsuck (which is exactly what it sounds like – things that suck in the world, like poverty) and increase awesome. Simple terms (the silly factor) that communicate truly intellectual and brilliant ideas: make the world a better place by being informed and living into your full capacity as a human being.

While i may reference the Green brothers all the time here, on this blog, and on my video blog found on Youtube, i’ve never really expressed overtly how much these two brothers mean to me. Both them in tandem, as the unit that is The Vlogbrothers, but also as individuals. Perhaps most of all, though, for what they stand for and what they, somewhat unintentionally, created in the globe-spanning community that is nerdfighteria.

John Green, as it so happens, articulates why i haven’t been so decided in sharing such feelings (until now) in his new book. (Note: this is from chapter 2, so it’s not a major spoiler). The main character, Hazel, is telling the reader why she feels hesitant about sharing what her actual favorite book is with people;

“My favorite book, by a wide margin, was An Imperial Affliction, but I didn’t like to tell people about it. Sometimes, you read a book and it fills you with this weird evangelical zeal, and you become convinced that the shattered world will never be put back together unless all living humans read the book. And then there are books like An Imperial Affliction, which you can’t tell people about, books so special and rare and yours that advertising your affection feels like a betrayal.”

As in so many things, precisely what John Green articulates here is often how i feel about books – and, in beauteous irony, several of these books are his own. I don’t tell people how much his book Looking for Alaska moved me – and still moves me – because of exactly what he (via Hazel) explains: it’s mine. Well, not so much now that i’m writing this for the MILLIONS of you out there reading this to read, but still.

I don’t share this love lightly, because it’s kind of like baring your Soul out a bit and risking the inevitable scoff from the inevitable snob who thinks the book is crap. And while, in a very real way, Looking for Alaska is not mine (as i had no part in its rendering) John himself said tonight: books belong to their readers.

This idea of an artist slaving over a piece, giving of herself or himself in a way that their very Life is pouring into it, translates for me to works on a broader scale than just books. Van Gogh is my favorite painter not because i understand the intricacy in the way he manipulated his brushstrokes or revolutionized visual art through conceptions of color and form (though, in fairness, i do like those attributes to his work). Van Gogh is my favorite painter because i can look at Starry Night and cry for the pain and wonderment at such suffering it expresses so intensely. In standing before Van Gogh’s work i see my own Self reflected back; certainly part of that is his own – the work would not be so moving were it to as inauthentic to not reflect the artist’s own hand. But i only know Van Gogh’s struggle through the lens of my own – through empathy, through learning, through my own dreaming of stars. John’s recognition of this moment for the reader or audience member or art appreciator augments my appreciation for his own work. If i may be so bold as to put words in his mouth, he sees that the art will forever be of the artist, but it belongs to the audience once it is released. Loving something means letting it go, to employ the cliché.

I guess what i’m trying to get at is that John Green’s books are more than just silly Young Adult fiction. Sure, there’s plenty of teenage angst and bad wine and high schooly romance, but the core of his writing is this emphatic and indescribable beauty made from his own attempts to question the cosmos. He is, to me, a philosopher. I don’t mean to idolize him (the man has faults (many of which i’m sure i will never know, as these things should be)) or place him precariously next to Socrates. What i mean to say is simply that, to me, John Green is more than an author. His books are more than words on a page. To use his own words once more, “I believe now that we are greater than the sum of our parts.”

So meeting him tonight was incredible, in the act of meeting him alone. The fact that he and his equally awesome and nerd-tastic brother, Hank, put on a show together simply compounded the exhilaration. For the act of sharing the space with two people embracing nerd culture and all the weirdness that comes along with it, for shaking John’s hand and telling him that his books move me to my core, for singing along and dancing in the aisles and being a total goof with hundreds of other people – this is what i celebrate.

And for these moments and for this time, i am so deeply grateful.

current jam: ‘high school (this isn’t hogwarts)’ hank green.

best thing in my life right now: the above.

fifteen things challenges completed: one (item #2: shake john green’s hand and tell him how looking for alaska saved me)

It’s Not as Weird as it Sounds: My Online Friends

Let’s just clear the air: i have friends i’ve made online.

Immediately whenever i disclose this particular piece of information to people who have not done the same, i (99% of the time) get one of two reactions. The first is a mild, “oh-that’s-nice” which reeks of subtextual fear and disapproval. The kind of response that means that people might ask politely intended but poorly phrased questions indicative of their worry that i only have friends online because i’m incapable of making them “in the real world.” I’m not a fan of this response, but i understand it. Making friends via YouTube is still relatively new in the broader discourse, despite YT’s years of existence.

The second response is one of overt judgement or worry – people who make comments like “that’s really weird, lizzie,” or “how do you know they’re who they say they are?” To the first comment, my initial response is simply to say: well isn’t any way you meet someone weird? Who defines normality?

But such esoteric smartass replies are not precisely conducive to communicating my point.

Because, at the end of the day, i get it.

The stereotype of creepy, predatory men lit in a dark room only by their computer monitor is a real one. At least, Criminal Minds tells me it’s real. The idea that there are dangerous people out to manipulate, scare, control, or abuse people (particularly young women) is not merely an idea: it’s a grim fact. I don’t discount that – but i also am aware that there are bullies and threatening people in every corner of our world. There are as many dangers as meeting someone online as there are in meeting someone at a bar or coffeehouse. You have to use your intellect, street smarts, guts, and meet in public places the first time around.

But here’s the other thing about said stereotype: it infers that i am talking exclusively to creepy men in their fifties preying upon my youth via chatrooms or facebook. The reality is quite different (not that you can’t make friends that way). My closest “internet friends” (a term i only use to distinguish them as people i met fist via wireless, and secondly in person, not that they are any less important to me than my “real life” friends) i met because of YouTube.

Which, understandably, might even compound the confusion. I would wager (again, in my non-expertise, totally subjective opinion) that 90% of people who use YouTube watch videos only pertaining to cats (totally acceptable), music videos, Rick Perry parodies (also completely okay), and the occasional school project for the super cutting-edge teacher. What is not included in this is how i got into YouTube – video blogging.

I’ve posted some videos here before of my own making, and more often than that make references to my favorite vloggers, John and Hank Green of the vlogbrothers. While the Green brothers by no means started the idea of a video blog (vlog), their channel and the community subsequently created around it has initiated an entire online movement. In 2005, the two brothers committed to a year long project where they would engage in text-less communication, predominantly through videos they would make for each other alternating every day of the week. The project, though not daily videos, has grown and persisted into the impending year of the apocalypse 2012. Because of their wit, insight, nerdiness, and utter abandon of self-consciousness on the web, these two gleaned, somewhat surprisingly to them, several hundred thousand followers (over the span of several years). As part of their mission to “decrease world suck” (which is literally to fight, through the power of love, anything that sucks in this world) they believe that all people are “made of awesome.” To this end, anyone who is “made of awesome” (who can be anyone) and wants to combat “world suck” is a “nerdfighter.” Meaning, if you like Doctor Who or Harry Potter and want to support small business owners in developing nations, you are a nerdfighter. Or if you’re into other things, that’s okay too.*

As i’m writing this, i can’t help but giggle a little at how strange this all sounds to put into a textual body. “Made of awesome” may not reek of Shakespearean eloquence, but it is pretty communicative and expressive of what the community is about. Yeah, the vlogbrothers are quirky and strange, but they have – through their own self liberation – given space for the inner nerd flag of anyone with an internet connection to be flown with pride. In their wake, thousands upon thousands of people have started their own vlogs, created nonprofits, made friends, hosted “gatherings” of nerdfighters, and generally united over a front to fight what they see is bad in the world by making connections with people who believe the same.

It’s no different to me then meeting someone at a Harry Potter appreciation society. Or a meeting for a campus organization seeking to promote awareness of injustices within the US Court System. A group of people, with common interests, meeting and talking. The difference is a computer screen.

In January of 2011 – exactly one year ago – i started a vlog. To be honest, i was wretched. My videos were too long, i had no clue how to edit, i talked too much, and never had much of a direction. But, six months new to the nerdfighter community, i desperately wanted to be a more involved part of it. That, and i was doing a little participant-observer research of my own for a potential senior thesis (more on that another time).

And, within a month of making videos, a fellow nerdfighter sent me a message on YouTube asking me if i would possibly be interested in a collaborative channel with herself and three other nerdfighters. I was both flattered and a little apprehensive – making videos on a channel with four people i’d never met before? Talking about what exactly? All of the responses i now get when i saw i have a video blog ran through my head. And yet, a part of me knew that this would be a really cool thing to try, should i only give it a chance. If it failed abysmally, it was just a little internet experiment. If it rocked, then i would have really been a part of this online community. Thus, allmadeofawesome was born a year ago this February made of myself, Jenn, Candace, Sarah, and Sara Michelle.

Fortunately for the five of us, i would say our little project rocked. It’s not famous, we’re not renowned among internet folk or anything like that – but that is not the point. The point is that, in spite of the weirdness of it all, i started talked to four other incredibly motivated, intelligent, and totally nerdy women about nerd culture and being at university. Basically, what i do with my friends “in my real life.” And through our videos, i’ve become genuine friends with these ladies. Not pornography, no predators, no venting of pent-up emotions i am incapable of expressing to people i see and hear and touch in the “real” world. Just friends.

Such good friends, though, that i’ve now hung out with two of them in person. Sara Michelle, who has the Friday slot on our channel, lives pretty close to where i go to school. We’ve attended two Harry and the Potters concerts together and have plans to do more nerdy stuff of the like – and when we’re hanging out, it’s just us talking and driving around or eating guacamole sandwiches (well, the last part is just me with my neurotic eating tendencies). Not weird. Not creepy.

okay, the normalcy argument may be lost here. but look, no serial killers!

With Sarah, i got to see her when i was in London in October. Sarah is, in fact, one of the major reasons i started watching Doctor Who, because she being British means that it’s somewhat compulsory to be awesome and nerdy and moon over Matt Smith (i know, sweeping generalizations (it’s a joke!)). Thus, when i’d fallen so deep in the time vortex that i wanted to go to the Doctor Who Experience in London, i invited her along – and we had such a marvelous time. For, despite his many waonderful attributes, my father is not precisely a Whovian. He was such a dear in spending the four hours with us in the museum, but it was Sarah with whom i geeked out over the tenth doctor’s actual TARDIS and the Ood prosthetics. She got the geekdom, the excitement, and the exhiliration at such silly things the way i did. Friends. Real friends.

sarah and i…in the tardis!

All of this to say, yeah. I have online friends. They’re real, they matter to me, and i realize that culturally this may not be the most acceptable. But as much as the internet has changed, so has our culture. The internet is a vehicle, i think, for what you make of it. For friends, for news, for connections, for cat videos during exam week. I think if we exercise appropriate caution in the same way we do in tangible reality, we can use the internet as a tool for good.

What are your thoughts? Have you made friends via the interwebs? Think i’m still a freak? You are all most welcome.

current jam: ‘safe & sound’ taylor swift, t-bone burnett, & the civil wars

best thing in my life right now: kitties, coffee, and my new mug.

*if this is not clear, i recommend this video as a better, from the horse’s mouth introduction!

mischief managed.

So I know I’ve, seemingly, fallen off the face of the internet earth. A combination of travelling almost nonstop for nearly three weeks and meeting my match in my first tropical disease have rendered me both (mostly) internet-less and incapacitated.

But I’m back! And want to thank all of you who emailed, facebook’d, or otherwise contacted me to see if I was okay. It means so much!

To make a lengthy tale one of brevity: We delayed our time in Gulu for a slew of reasons, chief among them that we love the Sisters and crew, and we managed to score a ride down to Kampala (a surprising but delightful addition to our journey tramping across the nation). In between getting back from Juba and leaving for Kampala, I contracted a pretty serious bacterial infection. I’ll spare you the gruesome details, but needless to say it has been a long while since I have been this ill. It was most certainly bound to happen sooner or later traveling here, and I confess I was most grateful to be at the Sisters with access to their free clinic (and most especially their abundant, loving care). Currently I’m not 100% better, but certainly more functional. I imagine it will be some time before I’m back to full-let’s-go-get-‘em!-Lizzie, but I continually remind myself how lucky I am to have access to antibiotics and time to rest.

At any rate, we’re now back in Kotido for a spell before tearing off again to traverse the continent (well, country).

But that’s not what I really want to talk about today; what I really want to share is why we, rather spontaneously, went to Kampala for two days.

We journeyed to Kampala because tucked into the Oasis mall is a movie theatre.

And in that movie theatre was the one and only Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2.

No twelve-hour drive or bacterial colony abiding in my gut can stop me from seeing Harry Potter. Told you I was a freak.

And let me tell you, friends, it was beautiful and perfect and so, so sad. I am not one who easily cries at films or television (the exception being any emotional scene with Kurt or Blaine on Glee). I think, in my entire life, I have actually shed tears during five movies.

This time, I wept almost the entire film through.

I won’t post any spoilers, but I will say that I fully believe that the two Deathly Hallows films are the absolute best. It’s no secret that I’ve found most of the films thus far to be sub-par, btu to be fair: these books are (obviously) important to me, So if it wasn’t exactly how I pictured it, or if the directorial decisions made didn’t make sense to me, than of course the films were not going to live up to my very high expectations.

But with the Deathly Hallows films for the first time with the movies, every addition or cut from the original story made sense to me. The acting was superb, the costumes and scenes often exactly how I pictured them in the books, and I felt it was a beautiful conclusion to the cinematic rendering of the story.

As we were making our way down to the city, it occurred to me that this time four years ago, the seventh book proper had been released. Reading it was, if you can believe it, even more emotional for me than watching the film. The books, after all, were always the most important to me. In so many ways, Harry Potter is my childhood. And that summer, 2007, was an enormous growing summer for me.

For the summer of 2007 was when I first came to Africa, and the first time I felt an enormous awakening in my soul. If one can manifest a time when childhood ends and adolescence really begins, that summer was it for me. Half of it was Africa, half was Potter. Judge all you like, these books matter to me.

So in a strange way, my adolescence is coming full circle this summer. I have finally made it back to Uganda- and experienced a helluva lot more growing pains. Traveling internationally by myself, being with adults almost exclusively, dealing with a serious illness away from my caretaking mom- these, among so many, have been big places of painful personal growth. And then, the last film of Harry Potter came out. While I couldn’t go to a midnight release in full regalia, munching on Chocolate Frogs with my fellow Potterheads as we grew more and more anxiousexcitedsadthrilled as midnight approached, in a way that was part of my emerging into adulthood. In much the same way that the summer I turned fifteen made me feel more like a teenager, this summer as I am approaching my nineteenth birthday, I feel like I’m growing into more of an adult.

When we were actually in the theatre, I sat alone in a row near the back. It wasn’t very crowded, so it was plausible enough. My reasoning was two-fold: firstly because I cannot stand it when people talk during films and did not want to be distracted by chatter, and secondly (and more importantly), because Harry Potter has always been, first and foremost, intensely personal for me. While watching the last film I wanted nothing but me and the movie.

Which is, in a strange way, perfect. As much as the Harry Potter culture of wizard rock, conventions, vlogs, and fandom is a part of my adoration for it, at the end of the day I started to read the books when I was six before all of that was truly born. So as I started my psychotic voyage down to obsessive-borderline-crazy-love for the Boy Who Lived alone, so the journey came to an end.

But let’s be real. It’s never over for us.

—                                                                                                                                                                                                                   current jam: ‘open at the close’ oliver boyd & the remembralls

best thing in my life right now: antibiotics!

fantas: i’ve lost count, but i think 15? let’s say fifteen.

PAGES READ: 12! yep, ladies and gents, thanks to one delightful gann i have acquired the FULL TEXT of tolstoy’s classic! since i have been ill and on the road i have yet to read much, but there. it’s under way!