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Leonicka Valcius

Leonicka Valcius: July 2012

Monday, July 30, 2012

POC Media Week 2: July 23 – July 29

I did much better this week. Sixteen hours of entertainment had diverse people/characters while seven hours did not. This supports my guess that the books I read and movies I watch are critical. The Olympics helped too.

I have a long queue of books but TV/movie suggestions are appreciated!

Kevin Hart videos:
Pass. For obvious reasons. (approx. 30 mins)

Pass. T
he content of this online magazine targets urban African-American women. (approx. 30 mins)

That’s So Raven:
Pass. I love
d this Disney channel show as a child!  Raven and her family are goofy and loving, and the show doesn't turn race into an "issue." (approx. 30 mins)
Who is Sugar:
Pass. Sugar is a super fabulous YouTuber.
Her vlog covers everything from fashion, hair, and beauty. Her cat Tiny co-hosts. (approx. 10 mins)

Pretty Little Liars:
Pass. Same as last week. (approx. 2

Pass. A classmate suggested I watc
h this show. I’m not feeling it after the first three episodes (I’m not the biggest sci-fi fan; take those elements away and the show is kina meh.) but there is a fair bit of diversity in the cast. I expected more Asians though since the show takes place in Vancouver. (approx. 3 hrs)

Miguel Street by V.S. Naipaul:
Pass. This book highlights characters from a slum in Port of Spain, Trinidad. (approx. 2 hrs)

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce:
Fail. This is the story of one man and that man is white.  (approx. 4 hrs)

Pass. The house party section of the Opening Ceremony was full of win. June’s hair? *swoon* I love it. And of course the Parade of Nations was a gorgeous sample of the peoples of the world. I love the Olympics. :) (approx. 6 hrs)

The Fellowship of the Ring (movie):
Fail. There are no people of color in Middle-Earth. At all. Stop looking for them. No existen. (approx. 3 hrs)

A Time to Kill:
Pass. Movie set in Mississippi about a white lawyer defending a black man. Random fact: I saw a clip of this movie years ago and thought it was To Kill a Mockingbird. (approx. 2 hrs)

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Thursday, July 26, 2012

Random House of Canada’s Olympic Readathon

The London Olympics start tomorrow! In solidarity with our great athletes, I’m going for the gold in Random House of Canada’s Olympic Readathon.
Between July 27 and August 12, I aim to read 1200 pages. That’s roughly four books but I picked out six novels from my to-be-read pile to be safe:
  1.   Miguel Street by V.S. Naipaul—222 pages (currently on pg. 107)
  2. The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce—296 pages
  3. Tar Baby by Toni Morrison—306 pages 
  4. The Beauty of the Humanity Movement by Camilla Gibbs—294 pages
  5. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley—231 pages
  6. The Angel’s Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafón—531 pages (currently on pg. 134)
To make sure I reach my goal I will:
  1. Read at least 75 pages each day. This is a marathon not a sprint so I plan to set my pace from day one and stick to it.  
  2. Move on if a book loses my interest. I always try to muddle through books I don’t like. Not this time. It’s a race to the finish! I can’t waste my time on duds!

Be sure to follow my progress on Twitter: @leonicka #OlympicReadathon

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Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Art and Making of The Dark Knight Trilogy

My friends and I went to see The Dark Knight Rises and were killing time in the bookstore next door when this caught my eye. Obviously, I had to have it.
I wish I had a coffee table worthy of this gorgeous book. Designed by the enormously talented Chip Kidd, this book is full of production skills, concept art, and comic book panels to give the reader a broader understanding of the work that went into producing The Dark Knight Trilogy. The images are supported by great interviews and insight from the cast and crew. It’s like having the DVD bonus features in book form.

The book is organized in such a way that the reader can pick and choose which part of the process they want to learn more about. My brother is a musician so I will definitely point him to the “Editing, Music, and Sound” chapter as part of my ploy to turn him into a famous film score composer.  My many writer friends will probably be more interested in the “Screenplay” chapter. I, of course, read the whole thing cover to cover because ZOMG BATMAN!
 As I took out my credit card to pay for this $45 book I muttered, “I’m going to regret this.” I don’t. The quality of the images and the breadth of information make this a Dark Knight keepsake I’ll hold on to for a long time. Every fan of the movies should get this book.

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Monday, July 23, 2012

POC Media Week 1: July 14 – July 22

On Tumblr I wrote about my commitment to extend my POCreading challenge to all my entertainment. Since a significant amount of that entertainment includes reading, I think it is fitting to record my progress here. 

This week will count as my baseline because I put no effort in finding entertainment with diversity. Looking at the results, I can tell this is not going to be an easy challenge. Although I have an equal number of entertainment with diversity as not (six to six), the time I spend on each is drastically different. My "diverse" entertainment was mostly blogs and YouTube videos. The total for the week is approximately 3.5 hours. On the other hand, the movies I watched and books I read were predominately white and took up more than 40 hours of my time. Yikes.

Below is the breakdown for the week. What great TV shows and movies should I be watching? Leave suggestions in the comments section!
404 (soon to be Paper Droids), a blog for geeky girls:
Pass. One of the editors is a woman of color and their content is inclusive. (approx. 10 mins)

GirlXoxo, a book blog:
Pass. Blogger is a woman of color and her content is inclusive. (approx. 10 mins)

Cherish My Daughter, blog and Youtube channel dedicated to natural hair care:
Pass. (approx. 10 mins)

The Angel’s Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafón:
Fail. The characters may not be Anglo-Saxon but they certainly are white. (approx. 4 hrs)

Various pieces by/ about Issa Rae:
Pass. This woman inspires me so much that dreamt I had coffee with her. We sat and talked and she gave me advice about being a black woman entrepreneur and chasing my goals. She’s incredibly talented and hilarious. I’m a big fan. (approx. 1 hr)

Various erotica ebooks:
Fail. There was one character who was Maori but of course he was described as savage, primal, and animalistic. (approx. 18 hrs)

X-Men movies:
Fail. Storm is in it and she’s a major character but considering it was an ensemble cast, people of color were sorely underrepresented. (approx. 3 hrs)

Taren916, natural hair/ lifestyle vlog:
Pass. She’s a positive and genuine biracial woman. (approx. 1 hr)

Harry Potter movies:
Fail. Kingsley is in there and so are the Patil twins. There also was a fair amount of diversity in the extras. But extras do not equal protagonists and it would seem the heroes of the wizarding world are white. (approx. 4 hrs)

The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises:
Fail. Sorry Nolan but Token!MorganFreeman is not enough for me. (approx. 5 hrs)

The Art and Making of The Dark Knight Trilogy book:
Fail. In fact reading about all the movies together made me realize just how big of a fail it was. Among the characters important enough to be mentioned in the chapter about casting, Lucius Fox was the only black person. There are a few other people of color in the trilogy but they are not protagonists and tend to die early (note the number of people of color Joker and company kill compared to the number of people of color there are in the movie). And, as the icing on the white male cake, there were only three notable women characters in the trilogy—Rachel Dawes, Miranda Tate, and Selina Kyle. FAIL. (approx. 8 hrs)

Pretty Little Liars
Pass. Emily is a queer woman of color and as one of the four main protagonists she can’t be dismissed as a token. This casting is impressive since the character is white in the books. (approx. 1 hr)

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Monday, July 16, 2012

Did Not Finish—When Books Disappoint

I absolutely adore The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón. When I found out the sequel, The Prisoner of Heaven was being released this year, I jumped for joy. At the bookstore my friends had to pry the $30 book out of my broke hands but they let me buy The Angel’s Game, the prequel to Shadow of the Wind. 

I’m now more than 100 pages in and I’m… disappointed. Don’t get me wrong. The prose is beautiful. There are whole passages that I wish I could wallpaper my bedroom with and I read the first chapter to my best friend of Skype. But it is moving so slowly. The narrative threads do not lead into each other smoothly. Instead an arc is wrapped up tidily; there is no tension or emotion compelling me to turn the page. As a result this book is very “putdownable.” I find myself finishing a chapter, setting the book aside, and forgetting I haven’t finished the book yet.

There’s a pile of books on my floor calling out to me like a school of sirens. “Read us,” they sing, “we’ll show you a good time.” But I love Zafón! And I had such high hopes! And I must read Prisoner of Heaven! I don’t know what to do. Should I keep plodding through The Angel’s Game? Or should I put it at the bottom of my to-read list until the Spirit moves me to try again? What would you do? Leave a suggestion for me in the comment section.

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Friday, July 6, 2012

Salsa Nocturna by Daniel José Older

Confession: I had no idea what this book was about when I requested the ARC from Daniel José Older and Crossed Genres Publications. When I tried to figure it out, I came across the words “ghost noir” and was terrified. I put down the book and resolved only to read it during daylight. My fear was unwarranted, of course. Older’s book isn’t about ghosts; it’s about spirits. The fact that some of them are dead is minor detail.

Salsa Nocturna, the debut short story collection by Daniel José Older, treats the supernatural… naturally. The dead roam the streets of New York just beyond the perception of most people. In each story, Older explores what happens when the living and the dead clash.

Older’s writing is at once urban and lyrical; the musicality in his style befits the title. Most of the pieces are written in first person so the prose takes on the vernacular of the narrator. The characters are uniquely aware of the words they use: “Simpatico is the best word for him. It means nice in English but nice is such a pathetic word.” 

Because he is the primary protagonist, Carlos’s voice sometimes overpowers the others and it took me a few lines at the beginning of each piece to realize who was narrating. Otherwise the characters are well developed and realistic. Whether they are dead, alive, or otherwise, these characters struggle to find a place where they fit and end up finding each other. They blossom in their interactions and their banter is easy and playful. Jimmy reminds me of my own 16-year-old brother (who better not be doing anything that Jimmy does!)  and I'm Gordo and my cubano grandfather would get along swimmingly. As the stories progress, the characters bond through mutual acceptance and understanding.  They are kindred spirits in every sense.

My one complaint concerns the structure. The short stories were too interconnected to be read in isolation but too disparate to be read as a single narrative. As a result, when you read them all back to back, the short stories come across like episodic pseudo-chapters. As someone used to reading novels, I kept wanting more. Older introduces the reader to a colorful cast of characters, superimposes a supernatural realm onto New York City, and slowly increases the tension and conflict. Then, just before everything snaps, he stops. The book is over.

“…death isn’t the great equalizer it’s made out to be. Layers of hierarchy remain, interlaced by the tangled webs of power and privilege.”

But I suppose even this can be considered a plus. I was left desperate to know what happens next. If Salsa Nocturna is Act 1, it has done one hell of a job getting me pumped for Act 2.
Clearly I need buddies to discuss this with while Older writes the sequel. (If I say it over and over maybe he’ll do it.) So hurry up and pre-order Salsa Nocturna, and if you’re in the New York area go the launch party. Then come back and tell me what you think.

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