Have you ever stumbled across a book that you didn’t realize would change your life? Has a friend ever recommended a show, and you watch one episode just to check it out, only to find yourself completely hooked? Congratulations: You’ve joined a fandom.
As someone who far prefers fantasy to reality, and who often has deeper feelings for fictional characters than people she has actually met, I cherish my fandoms. I thought this a rather self-indulgent idea for a blog post, but as Joy said, what are blogs for, if not self-indulgence? Besides, it might help introduce someone to new/new-to-them entertainment, and I live for that kind of stuff.
This is far from an exhaustive list of the fandoms and obsessions I have collected over the years. But it is in chronological order I’ve chosen the ones that were either 1.) the most coincidental, 2.) the longest-lasting, or 3.) the most recent.
1. Alfred Hitchcock
Some readers may not realize I’m a big fan of Alfred Hitchcock, because it’s a more “inactive” fandom for me right now. After all, it’s not like he’s still making new movies. But I was obsessed with his films in middle school, I own a few books about him and his films, and I will still enthusiastically participate in a discussion or viewing. He’s also at least partly responsible for my obsession with villains. It all began when I was about 8-9 years old. My dad said, “We’re going to watch The Birds.” I said, “OK.” Two hours later, I was fully traumatized. Yet somehow I still loved the movie, and I watched it repeatedly, followed by Rebecca, Rear Window, and more.
This one has a hazy beginning, but my earliest memory of watching Mystery Science Theater 3000 is being at my cousins’ house when they were watching it. I thought it was hilarious, even though I was about 9 and didn’t get all the jokes. This was when the show was still airing new episodes on Comedy Central, so I found out when it was on, and I would watch it on Saturday mornings (I think…it seemed to be Saturday mornings, anyway).
The basic premise of MST3K is: A man is trapped in a satellite in space and forced to watch terrible movies by a mad scientist who is seeking global domination. The scientist hopes to find the ultimate bad movie to break the wills of everyone on the planet. Fortunately, the man survives these experiences by mocking the movies with two robot friends, Crow and Tom Servo.
The shorter version: A few guys make hilarious commentary while watching bad movies.
I introduced high-school friends to the Posture Pals. The obsession only gained momentum in college, when I got a lot of the DVDs for Christmas, I introduced many new friends to MST3K, and befriended others who already loved the show. It’s been off the air for 15 years, but at least we have Rifftrax now, by some of the same guys.
3. Phantom of the Opera
I have my dad to thank for this one, too. I was 11, and we were going on a trip to Toronto. My dad said, “We’re going to see Phantom of the Opera.” I knew absolutely nothing about it, but I said “OK.”
I loved it, and saw it again. And again. And again. I memorized the soundtrack, I learned the songs on the piano, I read the novel, I read Susan Kay’s Phantom, I waited anxiously for the film version, I wrote fanfiction, and I watched all of the Phantom Reviewer‘s videos. If not for Phantom, I might not have published a novel yet. Writing the fanfic and posting it publicly helped me develop my creative writing and learn to deal better with criticism (positive and negative). Although I’m not a fan of their other stuff, I still owe a lot to Andrew Lloyd Webber and Gaston Leroux.
4. Harry Potter
Harry Potter mania was in full swing the summer of 2000, when Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire came out. During a trip to Borders (RIP), I literally thought, “I guess I’ll see what all the fuss is about,” and bought a paperback version of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. I was hooked (before I was even an anglophile!) and devoured the next four books. Then I waited … and read … and waited … and read … and waited … and waited … and read.
I made and deepened a lot of friendships over Harry Potter. The books, with their magic and increasingly dark tones, also helped ease some of the more unnecessarily uptight aspects of my Christian faith. The movies introduced me to some of my favorite British actors. Thank you, J.K. Rowling. Now please, shut up about who Hermione should have married and let’s all move on.
5. North and South/Elizabeth Gaskell
“Emily, you’ll love it! The hero is a die-hard capitalist and he has a great nose!”
That was the first thing I ever heard about the BBC miniseries of North and South, and it did not disappoint. The story, which combined romance with British economic history, was exactly my kind of thing. And yes, the male romantic interest, Mr. Thornton, is a die-hard capitalist with a great nose. (I don’t know if I’ve ever talked about my thing for noses on this blog, but I notice men’s noses the way other women notice the color of their hair, and I have specific “types” that I like most.) Mr. T didn’t make a good impression in his first scene, but after four hours, I was completely in love. I didn’t know about Myers-Briggs personality types at the time, and so I didn’t know that Mr. T and I were both INTJs. I would like to say that he was my first INTJ fictional crush, but I think Mr. Darcy and Dr. House got there before him.
6. Downton Abbey
I’m not a fan of Downton Abbey anymore, really. I still LOVE Season One, but every season after that just gets progressively worse, and I stopped watching it after season 2. Then I found out they killed my favorite characters, and…well, what was the point? But I had to list it because I was obsessed, and because of how I found out about it.
One of my favorite British history blogs mentioned a miniseries that was airing on Masterpiece Theatre, and I decided to watch the first episode online. I don’t remember what that miniseries was called, because I didn’t care for it. While I was on the website, though, I came across the first couple of episodes of Downton Abbey. I was obsessed with all things Titanic when I was 12-13, because I was a target demographic for the movie AND I love history and nautical things. So when I read the premise of DA, I got sucked right in. I loved it. I told other people about it and got them hooked. And, because it was a British production, I recognized two or three actors within the first five minutes.
(Kara and I like to play what we call “The IMDB Game,” where you watch a movie and go, “Where have I seen that actor before?” The challenge is to remember where else you’ve seen him/her before the movie ends and you have to go on IMDB.com.)
Ohhhh, boy, where do I even start with this one? The movie has been out for almost 2 years now, and this obsession is still going strong. It began with Captain America. Actually, it began earlier than that, but CA is what I’m going with. I saw CA because I have a soft spot for Chris Evans, and because Richard Armitage (who plays Mr. Thornton in N&S) has a tiny role in it. So I saw Avengers because of Cap, but when the end credits were rolling, I turned to Bethany and said, “I thought Loki was hot.”
Then I went home and played the IMDB game. I learned 1. Tom Hiddleston’s name and 2. that he also played F. Scott Fitzgerald. When I thought, “Oh, I should see Midnight in Paris,” I knew that my life was pretty much over.
To be fair, though, The Avengers was witty, engaging, and ridiculously fun, and it also turned me into a fan of Chris Hemsworth and Robert Downey Jr., and gave me a greater appreciation of Joss Whedon and Mark Ruffalo.
But seriously, the amount of time I spend on this fandom, and related fandoms, is ridiculous. I may need a support group. Please send help.
8. C.S. Lewis
There’s little I can say about dear, dear Jack that I haven’t already said in past posts. I bought a collection of his letters published under the title Yours, Jack a couple weeks ago and decided to make it part of my Lenten activities. I’m not sure if it was a good or bad idea. His insight has already been helpful spiritually, as always, but it’s only fueled my fandom insanity. I love him so much. Many times he wrote about struggles that I have had, and he identifies their underlying causes and solutions so clearly, it blows my mind. I want to take all of my Lewis books with me on my road trip, but since that would involve at least 17 separate volumes (if you count my hefty Narnia boxed set and the cosmic trilogy boxed set), it’s proooobably impractical.
9. Game of Thrones
(Or, as Joy called it, Game of Waiting for George R. R. Martin.)
If I lost interest in Downton Abbey for killing off my favorite characters, I can’t explain how I’ve made it through the first two books in the Song of Ice and Fire series. I’ve never watched the HBO series, and I am really, really, really trying not to. I don’t enjoy watching graphic sex scenes, and I have trouble watching a lot of violence. I prefer to read about it, where I can kind of filter my imagination and decide how much to visualize and how much to leave blank.
With several of my friends watching the series, endless online references, and a whole summer of people freaking out about the Red Wedding, I suppose it was only a matter of time before I went, ”Eh, I’ll see what all the fuss is about.” Now I know. Honestly, I was traumatized by the first book, A Game of Thrones. I don’t know if it was my emotional state (hormones?) at the time, or what. I already knew (uh, SPOILER ALERT, I guess) that Ned Stark was going to die, but it still broke my heart because he became my favorite character, despite efforts to stay unattached. (Is he an INTJ? I was wondering, and I think he might be. Someone else can weigh in on this.)
After the first book, I decided I wouldn’t read any more. But I still wanted to know what happens, so I went on Wikipedia to read the synopses of the sequels. I found out that, being very much pro-Stark, I was in for a world of heartbreak. This only traumatized me further. To make matters worse, I finished the first book the day before I had my surgery. The anesthesia screwed with my emotions and my mental state for a while, such that I was still sobbing over Ned and Robb on the way to my two-week follow-up. But a few weeks and a clearer head later, I decided I still wanted to read the rest. So I bought, read, and finished A Clash of Kings, and now I’m waiting for A Storm of Swords to arrive from Amazon.
We’ll see how I feel about reading the rest of them when I’m done with that.
AND NOW FOR SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT.
It took me a while to see Frozen. The movie had been out for months already when I went to see it, and it wasn’t a high priority. I just kept hearing about it online and elsewhere, until I just had to find out … yup … what all the fuss was about.
I loved Frozen, but I don’t really know what to say about it. I already overanalyzed the movie’s villain (sort of). I grew up with Disney, I love musicals, I love snow and winter, and I. Love. Elsa. (Yes, SHE is an INTJ. I’m certain of it.) I love Olaf and Kristoff and Sven, because they are adorable. I haven’t stopped listening to “Let it Go” or “For the First Time In Forever” for weeks. I couldn’t wait for the dollar theater to see it a second time, but I will see it a third and fourth time too. It’s gorgeous, it’s fun, it’s touching, it’s cute, it’s dramatic, and it’s surprising.
. . .
And now, some Fandom Honorable Mentions. These are fandoms I can’t completely leave out, but they weren’t quite as coincidentally happened-upon.
– Sense & Sensibility/Jane Austen
My earliest memory of anything Jane Austen is watching the 1995 Sense and Sensibility with one of my stepsisters. It became one of my favorite movies, but the first time I saw it, I hated it. I couldn’t remember names and I lost track of what the heck was going on. All I remembered about it was that “Hugh Grant is in it, and Kate Winslet marries some old guy.” As a die-hard (hurr hurr) Alan Rickman fan, this is hilarious to me NOW.
I watched it again in college, loved it, and read the book, which I love a lot less. Then I took a Brit lit class in which we read Pride and Prejudice, I watched the 1995 miniseries with Colin Firth, and my love for Jane Austen was solidified. Now, I’ve read all her novels except Mansfield Park, which I hated and couldn’t finish, and watched many, many film adaptations.
Unlike many Austen fans, I’ve never been that interested in the author’s real life. Then, in an unfortunate example of breaking the Benedict Cumberbatch rule (Tom Hiddleston is in it for about 5 minutes total), I watched the dreary and dreadful Miss Austen Regrets, and it almost put me off Jane Austen completely.
– Horatio Hornblower
Spring break of my senior year of college (2007), Kara and I went to see the movie Amazing Grace. I was interested because it was my favorite period of history (18th century Britain) and because it centered on the abolition of slavery in Britain and the classic hymn “Amazing Grace,” a favorite topic of my favorite history professor. This was the first time I had watched anything with Ioan Gruffudd, who played the lead role as William Wilberforce. I knew going into AG that Ioan had played Hornblower, but I’d never watched it. Once he became my latest actor crush, however, I watched the whole Horatio Hornblower series, and formed an obsession that inspired my first novel, several blog posts, and my England vacation last year.
Because Benedict Cumberbatch has a small role as Prime Minister William Pitt the Younger in Amazing Grace, I found out about him the same time as I found out about Ioan Gruffudd. (And said, “Benedict Cumberbatch? What a great name!!“) With fewer credits under his belt, there was less of an opportunity to form an obsession, but I did manage to watch some more stuff. I claim major hipster points for knowing about his talent before he was cool. I wasn’t a huge fan, though, until Kara informed me that he was going to be in Sherlock. I’ve never been a fan of mysteries or crime-drama, though I do like some Agatha Christie and I was a fan of CSI: Miami for a few seasons. I’d also never read any original Holmes stories (and still haven’t). So Sherlock went on my “things to watch” list, but I didn’t watch the first series until I was sick of hearing how great it was from everyone else on the planet. (I had also seen and loved Martin Freeman and Rupert Graves in other roles too.) After that, of course, I was hooked.
I often see myself as a terrible, heartless person, especially in relation to my Christian faith. I am not interested in most people; I don’t enjoy them simply because they exist. I care deeply for the people in my life, the people that I actually know and communicate with. But when it comes to strangers, be they next door or across the globe, I am utterly indifferent. I certainly do not wish bad things upon them—I just don’t have any feelings for whatever they may be experiencing.
I get down on myself for that pretty often, thinking that it makes me a horrible person not to feel sorry for people, and that I would care more about them if only I were a decent human being.
Then, during my morning devotions, I realized that God does not command us to have specific feelings. He commands us to do things. How we feel about them is largely irrelevant. For example, Joshua 1:9 commands us “Be strong and courageous!” but courage usually involves action in spite of feelings of fear.
Christians are supposed to pray for each other, bear each other’s burdens, give to the poor, encourage each other, worship God, put others’ needs before ours, and flee from sin and temptation. None of that requires specific emotions to be involved. Some feelings may make those actions easier or more difficult. But the feelings themselves do not change what God has commanded us to do or not to do.
How I feel about a thing is less important than what I do about it. This realization has been very freeing. If I pray for someone without being emotionally invested in the consequences, or if I give money to a worthy cause without feeling any passion for that cause, I have done no less than what I should. It’s not how I feel, but what I do, that is good or bad.
A friend of mine asked me to pray for a family that she knows and I do not. This family is in a difficult situation, but emotionally, I feel nothing for them. I don’t know them, I don’t have any experience with what they are going through, and from what I can see, the outcome is unlikely to make any difference in my life. I can, of course, see how it is traumatizing for them, and I can hope that things end happily. If I wished otherwise, that would be heartless. But as things stand now, I have no emotional investment in their situation, and no feelings riding on the outcome.
. . .
Even in the absence of any feelings, however, as a Christian, I should still pray for needs that come to my attention. I still ought to pray for that family, not because I feel like it, or because I feel anything for them, but because God commands us to pray for others, because He hears our prayers, and because it matters to Him. I may never be emotionally invested, but I don’t have to be, and that doesn’t make me a bad person. If I ignored a need and did not do what I know I could, that would be sinful.
I think C.S. Lewis sums this up quite nicely. (Doesn’t he always?) In a letter to a friend who was being confirmed, he said:
Caveat [let her beware!]—don’t count on any remarkable sensations, either at this or your first (or fifty first) Communion. God gives these or not as He pleases. Their presence does not prove that things are especially well, nor their absence that things are wrong. The intention, the obedience, is what matters.
In Romans 12, Paul writes to “rejoice with those who rejoice” and “mourn with those who mourn.” I doubt he is trying to tell us that we must experience specific sensations. Even if you cannot drum up a certain feeling for something, you can at least recognize why others do. Maybe you’re not sad about the death that your friend is mourning over, but you can at least understand why it is painful, and provide for your friend in their time of need. You may not feel happiness for something a friend is happy about, but you can acknowledge it and not discourage it (and squash any envy).
This allows one to rejoice or mourn as needed, without necessarily having feelings about it.
(Such is the life of a Christian INTJ in a world teeming with Fs.)
I needed to read this, and I know plenty of people who need to read this. I could have written probably 99% of this post (minus the part about living on Pinterest—I hate Pinterest), and I say yes, these are excellent things to work toward. The last one almost made me cry—bless you for putting it out there! It seems unfair (and I know, life isn’t fair) that I’m expected to buy wedding and baby-shower gifts for my married friends when I’m on a tight budget, trying to save for a very uncertain future, and also paying medical bills.
This post certainly doesn’t sound bitter to me. In fact, I was thinking how much sweeter these words are than the ones I would have chosen to express the same ideas! I think this is something every Western-church-going Christian should read and be aware of, single or married.
Originally posted on Reflections From the Never Ending Road to Calvary:
Last week, my pastor published an article out of a father’s heart for the single women who want to marry in his church body. You can read it here: http://marshill.com/2013/12/13/6-options-for-godly-single-women-wanting-to-marry
The article was like balm for my chaffed, lonesome soul. The life of a single person is full of friction. Relationships are full of confusion, decisions are challenging to make, and each day is pregnant with “maybe never’s” and “not yet’s”. It was a relief to be acknowledged and for the complications to be noted.
I’m in the middle of sorting through my stuff to decide what to keep/pack, what to throw out, what to give away, and what I will need for my epic road trip.
In the process, I found an old journal that contained a very interesting list: “What I Learned From Horatio Hornblower.” It was too entertaining not to share.
1. Duty is everything. No, I mean, everything.
2. Always carry a pair of thick mittens with you. (Not a euphemism.) You never know when they’ll be useful.
3. The rules don’t apply if you’re cute enough.
4. When you find yourself in times of trouble, pretend to be French.
5. Oatmeal cures anything.
6. If the oatmeal fails, there is always laudanum.
7. When you face your enemy, pistol in hand, just point the gun at him and engage him in conversation, and eventually someone else will shoot and kill him.
8. Never trust an unattractive Irishman. Cute ones are fine.*
9. Metal expands when heated.
10. Nobility and stupidity often go hand-in-hand.
11. Think you’ve contracted the plague? Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow you will die.
12. Make sure you maintain at least two best friends and confidantes, in case you lose one of them in battle.
13. You’re not being paranoid. There really is a psychopath out to kill you.**
14. Never hire a guy fresh out of prison as your cook.
15. Once you win the respect and affection of Sir Edward Pellew, you can literally get away with murder.
16. Do not rent from landladies with unmarried daughters.
17. Gambling is an excellent source of income.
18. Frenchmen have surprisingly bad French accents.
19. Duchesses have surprisingly working-class accents.
20. If a new, young officer shows the slightest hint of cowardice, shoot him immediately. It will save you a lot of trouble later on.
21. Archie Kennedy says whatever the hell he wants.***
* May or may not apply in Downton Abbey.
** Also applies to Sherlock.
*** Does not apply in the presence of Lt. William Bush.
And just for good measure, I was actually at the church where Horatio Hornblower made that terrible mistake:
You know how much I love and appreciate you wonderful blog readers, right?
Here’s the thing: In case you missed the posts, I had to have surgery last month. (I owe you at least one more post o’ stories about that, by the way.) I’m still recovering well–doing kickboxing, Zumba, cooking, planning new life adventures, writing, all the things I like to do.
But now, the hospital bills are rolling in. Because of my self-employment status, I pay for my own (high-deductible) health insurance, and these bills are all but obliterating my savings. And unfortunately, I’ve not only got a few more surgery-related bills coming, but also will be paying for non-cosmetic dental procedures and car repairs in the near future.
I’m not asking for donations. I thought about putting a PayPal Donation button on this page, but, as a self-published author, I have more to offer in return for your money.
Instead, I’d be immensely grateful if you bought a copy of my book! Maybe you haven’t yet, but you’ve considered it. Maybe you have your own copy, but need a gift idea for someone else.
I’ve reduced the price of both the Kindle and the paperback versions. The Kindle version will be available for $3.99, and the paperback for $11.60. (As I’m writing this post, it looks like the old prices are still in use, but this should change by tomorrow.) I also brought back the little side widget there with a photo of the book and a link to its Amazon.com page.
It may seem like it wouldn’t make a difference to buy one book, but it does–emotionally as well as financially. I really need the help, especially if I’m going to buy gas money to drive places that will not only contribute to this blog, but may provide research opportunities for future books.
And really, if I can’t fund my adventures, what are y’all gonna come here to read about??
I’m talking about cookies—or “biscuits” if you’re on the other side of the Atlantic—known as Hobnobs.
If you are unfamiliar with Hobnobs, you are in for a tasty treat today, my friends. Hobnobs are a delicious oat-based British cookie, similar to a digestive biscuit, that are available plain or with a layer of chocolate. As far as I can tell, Hobnobs are to the U.K. what Oreos are to the U.S. As Oreos are marketed as “milk’s favorite cookie,” Hobnobs might be called “tea’s favourite biscuit.”
Most major U.S. grocery retailers sell Hobnobs in their international sections, including World Market. Alas and alack, they’re pretty pricey for the size of the package. (Heh.) Naturally, I set out to find a recipe I could make at home. After trying several versions with varying degrees of failure, I finally tweaked them to create what I think comes close enough to satisfy my Hobnob hunger.
And I am writing this post to share the cookies of my labor with you. You may thank me now, later, or both.
First, the ingredients:
1 cup oats/oatmeal
1/3 cup of whole-wheat flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 Tbs shortening (like Crisco)*
1 Tbs butter*
2 Tbs vegetable oil
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
semisweet or milk chocolate chips
Special Equipment: Food processor (a blender might work too, but I haven’t tried it), some kind of round cookie-cutter shape (ideally about 2 inches in diameter), and a rolling pin (a wine bottle will work too, in a pinch)
* I’ve never tried it, but coconut oil may be a good substitute for either the butter or shortening or both. You want something that is solid at room temperature to get the right texture for the dough. I’m not sure how that will change the flavor, though.
And now, the Steps:
Pardon the lower-quality photos. My camera battery died, so I had to use my iPod.
1. Brew yourself a cup of tea.
(OK, this step isn’t actually necessary, it just adds to the Experience.)
1b. Pour 1 cup of oats into food processor. Pulse a few times to start breaking up the oats. Don’t overdo it—you don’t want the oats to become all powder.
2. Add 1/3 cup whole-wheat flour, 1 tsp baking powder, and 1/2 tsp salt to food processor. Pulse a few more times until everything is evenly combined. You’ll want a few larger bits of oats to remain, for Texture.
3. Add 1/3 cup brown sugar, 1 Tbs butter, and 1 Tbs shortening. Pulse some more to combine.
4. Add the 1/2 tsp vanilla and the 2 Tbs vegetable oil. Pulse, pulse, pulse, like the lifeblood that flows through your veins. The mixture should be oddly clumpy and a little misshapen. You may have to stop to scrape the sides a time or two.
5. Turn on the food processor and let it run, adding the cold water 1/2 Tbs at a time. Give it lots of blending time between doses of water. You want the mixture/dough to form a big ball in the food processor, but you don’t want it very wet.
6. Remove dough from food processor (turn the processor off first, for goodness’ sake!!!!), form it into a ball, and wrap it in cellophane.
7. Let the dough chill like a vill…ain for about 20 minutes.
8. Unwrap the dough and roll it out with a rolling pin to about 1/4 inch thick. If the dough is too sticky, use a dusting of flour (preferably whole-wheat) and roll it out on some wax paper. If it’s still too sticky, then you used too much water when it was in the food processor and have brought dishonor on your family.
9. Cut out the dough into shapes, and place it on cookie sheets.
As you can see, with the amounts and methods I used, I got 7 uniformly-sized cookies and one weensy Hobnob cobbled from leftover scraps of dough. Slight differences in dough thickness and cutting size may yield a different number. You don’t have to be too careful about spacing them out on the sheet. They will expand and puff out, but not a lot.
10. Bake at 350 degrees F until cookies are set and nicely browned around the edges. I think it took me at least 15 minutes, but I’m pretty sure my oven temperature is out of whack. Your Mileage May Vary. Let the cookies cool on a wire rack.
11. If you want chocolate Hobnobs (because of course you do), melt some semisweet or milk chocolate and spread a thin layer on the completely cooled Hobnobs. Let the chocolate cool and harden either at room temperature or in the fridge.
12. Make a(nother) cup of tea to have with your Hobnobs.
Eat them while watching the latest Sherlock, if you have good taste, or the latest Downton Abbey if you don’t. (Ooooohhhh!!!!!!)
As someone who went to see this performance last week, I just want to add that it is everything she says it is, AND MORE
Originally posted on Egotist's Club:
I was a muddle of expectations: on one hand, I expected good things because it had Tom Hiddleston and Mark Gatiss at the very least. On the other hand, the bits of the play I’d read (or read about) suggested that it involved a lot of politics (bleah) and Coriolanus being a jerk (which…could be interesting, but might just be annoying). On the other other hand, I’d heard good things from Em about it.