Marvel Movie Marathon: Thor: This is really a pretty straight-up enjoyable movie.

Given my recently-discussed inherent level of dubiousness regarding Iron Man, you will perhaps be surprised to hear that the character I absolutely thought they *could not* make work in a cinematic universe was Thor. I thought—honestly, I *still* think—that introducing gods into a superhero world was asking too much from the audience, and the fact that they went to a mild degree of trouble to ensure everybody that no, these are technically aliens, not gods, did not, IMHO, improve matters. I truly felt that accepting superheroes was enough of an ask and that adding aliens to the mix was just too damn much.

(I mean, yes, by the time they get to GotG, okay, yes, sure. They had a dozen movies behind them at that point, and a wildly successful franchise/universe. I was okay with bringing aliens/space opera in then, because it was all solidly *established*. (This is why I cringe at the apparent alien storyline in the upcoming Dark Phoenix film: they’ve flopped around so much with the X-films that I don’t feel like there’s enough *established* to bring aliens in without making it Too Much. It’s why I was *so thrilled* that they weren’t going the alien route with Jean in the first two films, and I will always be a little sad that we didn’t get Bryan Singer’s third X-Men movie, even if Singer himself turns out to be problematic. :p ANYWAY.))

The point of all this is that my expectations were lower than the bottom of the bucket, so Thor would have had to have to have been *excrutiatingly* bad to disappoint me, but I went to it the first time quite grimly, really not expecting to enjoy it at all.

I was wrong. They pulled it off. They managed to bring aliens (or gods) in successfully and in an entertaining fashion, in part thanks to the in-film skepticism presented by Stellan Skarsgard’s Eric, who is a man who wants to believe. But mostly—who are we kidding—it succeeds because Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston are wildly charismatic, and because the script is funny, occasionally poignant, and just the right amount of tongue-in-cheek.

It is no wonder Tom Hiddleston rocketed to superstardom on the strength of playing Loki. He’s both angularly, sullenly beautiful and capable of whipping out the most suppressed-wounded gaze imaginable, and Loki himself is such a snake. It’s such a solid part. My memory is that it was a brilliant part, and possibly the first time around, it was. Now the actual brilliance is from the evolution of the character across, what, four? films; he starts out good and by the time you reach The Hug We Were Cheated Of, it’s this magnificent embodiment that retroactively colors my perception of the character from good to amazing in the first movie. So I was kind of surprised to feel that he was only *good* this time, but he was, in fact, very good.

I HAD FORGOTTEN THEY BLEACHED CHRIS HEMSWORTH’S EYEBROWS, THO. THAT WAS A TERRIBLE IDEA! :) Thor is…such a dick, really, in the first half of the film. A good-natured huge lunk of a dick. He’s a total bro, which is diametrically different from Tony Stark’s total assholery in the first part of Iron Man, and, like RDJ, without the actor’s inherent charisma (and, of course, the advantage of story structure meaning we know he’s going to go through a redemptive arc) it’d be easy to just loathe the character. And, you know, I’d…all the previous times I’d seen it (all 2 or 3 times, max), I’d felt that his character arc was too easy? That it didn’t…I didn’t really feel like it..*took*? Except this time, watching it, I really felt for him as he learned Odin was dead and he realized it was all on his shoulders and that he’d screwed up his and everybody else’s live irrevocably. I believed it for the first time, like. So that was interesting!

One of the *great* things about Thor is that the women get to be funny. Natalie Portman does not often get to be funny, but she has both situational comedy (hitting Thor with her car) (twice) and a couple of funny line deliveries, particularly “Oh. My. *God*,” with the up-lilt in ‘god’, and “It’s a *good* look.” And Kat Denning’s Darcy is just the best and I would love to see some kind of MCU movie built around, like, her and Rosario Dawson’s Claire. They would just savage the whole MCU. :)

Oh, also. *laughs* I’d never seen Idris Elba in anything before, at least, not to my aware knowledge. I honestly thought he had gold eyes. I mean, I’ve seen a handful of people in my life who did, so I just…honestly thought he had gold eyes. To the point that, the next time I saw him in something, I thought, “Oh, aw, man, they decided to color his eyes brown in this!” And then sort of slowly it occurred to me that, um, nooooo, they hadn’t… :)

The other best part about watching Thor again is we decided Young Indiana was old enough to watch it now, and he loved it SO MUCH. He was narrating and shouting questions and going, “OOOOOOH, they LIIIIIIIKE each other” at Thor and Jane, and it was completely magnificent. I thought he was going to swell up and explode with pride when Thor went to face the Destroyer on his own. “Mommy! Mommy, he doesn’t have his powers! Mommy, what’s his plan? What’s he going to do?” “He’ll have a bad plan, honey, Thor’s plans are always terrible.”

Dad forgot we were going to watch it today, so he’d gone out and only came home for about the last third, which kinda meant he got most of the best bits (he did miss the White Room scene, which is terrific), and he enjoyed what he did see of it, and now he’s got Thor and Loki established (I mean, he did anyway because he’d seen Ragnarok) and we can watch Avengers!

I have completed 100 days of Spanish.

I’m quite proud of that. On the other hand, for probably the last month or even more, I’ve really been retreading the same territory. One of the… problems? Duolingo has, or I have, is that it reasonably wants you to keep your vocabulary going. It wants to strengthen your previous lessons. Which you know, makes sense.

So the problem that I’m having is that I’m basically not spending enough time — certainly not as much time as it wants me to – studying. I get so that’s on me. :-) But I also guess it’s really kind of depressing to not be making loads of forward progress.

I mean, I could be choosing to forge ahead with new lessons every day and not worry so much about strengthening, except, of course, I do find the strengthening to be very helpful. Especially — not so much for actual vocabulary — but in terms of verb conjugation, which was never really my strong point. As I said to a friend one time, I can have a pretty solid conversation in Spanish but I can only do it in the present tense.

How very Hemingway, she said. :-)

Anyway, I have been enjoying doing Duolingo. I plan to keep going, but I’m going to have to either dedicate more time to it (*looks frazzled*) or I’m going to have to accept my strengthening skills are going to be insufficient.

Marvel Movie Marathon: Iron Man 2: I saw most of IM2 again a couple years ago and I thought it had held up a *lot* better than expected. My memory of it was that it really wasn’t very good, which is borne up by the fact that basically everybody seems to think it really wasn’t very good, but…actually, it’s pretty good.

It does, yes, have the problem of following very similar beats to the original film in terms of the Whiplash storyline, which ends with him in a giant mech just like Stane ended in. But outside of that…it’s pretty individualistic.

Tony’s storyline is…I mean, it’s a *disaster*. *Tony* is a disaster. He’s dying of palladium poisoning and he’s doing the world’s absolute worst job of trying to do right by people before he dies. He’s AMAZINGLY bad at it. SO BAD. It’s kind of wonderful. But you know what? Even if he’s a terrible person, a womanizer, a cad, insensitive, all of it…I would not be afraid if I was locked in a room with Tony Stark.

But Justin Hammer, in this movie? I would be terrified. He’s a lot of the reason I didn’t like the movie in the first place, because he’s SO unlikeable, so craven and glory-hungry and competitive. Tony without any of the charm or, frankly, the social skills. I would feel *threatened* by that man, if I was stuck in a room with him, because he doesn’t care at all about other people, only himself, and Tony, despite his flaws, does. Hammer would be perfectly okay with hurting me, deliberately, to get what he wanted; Tony would not. And in this #metoo era, that makes Hammer an *exceptionally* alarming villain, which I thought…really worked.

Mickey Rourke’s Vanko really borders on this side of tragic–I think with a little more finessing they could have made the character heartbreaking. It wasn’t what they wanted to do, but I think they *could* have.

And then there’s poor Pepper, who once again gets the rigid, upset thankless female part. A thing they did well in this one, though, was end up with Pepper and “Natalie” on the same side (a decision that I like but am not confident was well telegraphed in the actual movie; it seems like an abrupt flip on Pepper’s part rather than being organic). I just kind of wish there’s been a moment of softening or forgiveness toward Christine Everheart, who is, in her way, as caught up in Tony’s nonsensical world as Pepper is, and it’s not Christine’s fault that Tony is who he is. She just went with it, and really, who wouldn’t? I’d rather have seen Pepper sort of sympathetic to her than openly hostile.

Gosh, I forgot how very *bouncy* Black Widow’s hair is in the “I kick everybody’s ass in the hallway” scene. IM2 is my least favourite incarnation of Natasha (and holy god, she really slimmed down for that catsuit; she’s not as tiny in the other films, nor does she need to be), but it’s hard to not remember the sheer glee of seeing her just *waste* all those dudes, particularly with Happy in the background whaling away on the one. “I got him!”

I was pretty darn unhappy about the fact that Terrance Howard’s Rhodey was recast at the time, but I’ve come around to where I find Howard the anomaly and I now kinda wish I could’ve seen Don Cheadle as Rhodey in the first movie, because I do love him. (My recollection is Howard wanted more money, and my opinion was, and indeed is, that he probably deserved more, pretty well regardless of what he was getting paid, and that was BEFORE the revelations about how shockingly underpaid white actresses are compared to white actors, and how magnitudes-more-shockingly-underpaid actors of color are than white women started coming into the more general consciousness, but I’ve also since learned that he is apparently…not a nice person…at all…which I suspect may have had *more* to do with him being replaced than the money, which can often be a convenient excuse.)

So the upshot is that IM2 is really worth a re-watch, which is a pretty pleasant discovery!

My friend Chrysoula (you should read her books) notified me a couple weeks ago about this to-do/scheduling app she’d found, that she thought seemed like it had many of the features I’ve been looking for in a scheduling app. It’s called SkedPal, and it’s…it’s pretty good, guys.

It uses time blocking, which I’m…getting the hang of… :) …and it’s pretty flexible, in that you can plug a bunch of projects in and it arranges them into your work time block (or whatever you assign it to). You can teach it you’d rather do This Kind Of Thing Now and That Kind Of Thing Later, and it allows you to defer something or skip it for the day. It lets you mark projects as partially done, and it groups small tasks, like watering the plants and changing the kitty litter, into a block together automatically. You can set recurring tasks that happen daily, weekly, monthly, and anything in between. You can tell it how long you think it’ll take you to do a task, and it spreads the task out over your work hours for however long it takes (although apparently after about 20ish hours it thinks you should “break your project into smaller tasks”, which isn’t helpful when the project is “draft a book” which genuinely takes 120 hours or whatever). Oh, and to my delight, it has a little red line that rolls down through the day so you can see where in the day you are with regard to your tasks. :)

It syncs PRETTY WELL with Google calendar, which is a HUGE plus in my book, because that means I can look at my phone and have my calendar up and it’s got all the stuff I want to do that day, even the recurring “study spanish, meditate” etc kinds of things. I haven’t tried putting something into the calendar first and seeing if it turns up on SkedPal, but that’s a little less important to me.

It has some issues that frustrate me. I haven’t been able to figure out how to properly get it to have a Project Deadline that…IDK, like, agrees with? the individual task deadlines? It seems like if it’s got a project deadline it gets caught up in THAT being the end-all-be-all deadline even if the smaller tasks within have sooner deadlines. It’s confusing to me, anyway. And it doesn’t seem to update across platforms very well, although it’s supposed to ‘instantaneously’, and it appears to need to be restarted daily in order to know what day it is. If I try to scroll up on my tablet, which obviously has a touch screen, it drags things around and doesn’t ask if that’s what I want to do, and leaves me with no obvious way to undo it, which is very annoying.

There are many things I wish it did, but honestly, it covers a *lot* of the territory I wish-listed in I need an app for this. I’d absolutely freaking LOVE it if it would ding pleasantly at the end of a scheduled window, or–and this would probably require a higher level of AI than we’ve got right now–if it would say, “Your time for this project is up. Would you like to finish, or continue for another half hour?” and then automatically reschedule everything if I said “gimme another half hour”.

The latter is probably asking too much, but the former–a sound effect that I can enable or disable as I wish, to announce the end of one project window and the start of another (ideally different sounds, individually programmable, IN MY DREAMS with something that encourages me to schedule a break between projects (“We’ll start your next project in 15 minutes!”)–seems well within the bounds of possibility, and I think it’s potentially awesome.

It’s not quite as pretty as I’d like, although as I’m getting more projects in and assigning them individual colors it’s getting prettier. I’d like round corners, is basically what it amounts to. :)

Oh, and I can assign colors to each project, and then the project is presented on the calendar in those colors, but I’d like it to also have the project NAME in the colored columns. For example, right now I have a pretty blue “write chapters” which is…actually not super great. I’d like it to have Timestamp: Project Name: Task all in the pretty blue window, because if I’ve got 15 projects and “write chapters” is necessary for 4 of them, it’d be really a lot more helpful to glance at it and have it say “11:30am: SORCERY & SOCIETY : write chapters” than for me to have to label each “write chapters” with the book it’s part of. I mean, the fact that it’s in the project folder, to me, is the information about what book it’s part of, so the project needs to be labeled on the calendar.

Now: this sounds like a very complainy kind of post, but that’s because I’m nitpicking. It is genuinely the closest thing I’ve found to my wishlist scheduling app. It’s insanely robust–I haven’t covered the half, or even the quarter, of what it does, really–and the guts of it are really solid. I think this thing is going to be really good for me. I think it’s…helping me to grasp the idea that I can’t actually do everything This Month, which is my perpetual belief. I mean, I know I can’t, but seeing the little calendar go “you’ve got a conflict! Is the plan changing?” is…useful. It’s…I’m really still getting the feel for it, but if I continue to use it I think it may be *really* good for me.

I am, in fact, sufficiently convinced of that that I’ve anted up for the *not inconsiderable* expense (it comes out to about €16/m) of a subscription. If I actually continue to use it past 6-12 weeks, I’m very likely to go to the year-long subscription, which is quite a lot cheaper. I’m, like, tentatively super excited about it, and I really kinda can’t wait to see how it works out over several weeks instead of just a couple.

Also, I’ve had a few questions–for one thing, it kept assigning “w/o” to things, which UTTERLY BAFFLED ME, because to me “w/o” means “without” and it made No Sense At All, and then it turned out their subscription system assumes the email address you’re paying with is the one you’re using as your SkedPal account, which is not true in my case–so I’ve contacted their support, both on Twitter and via their support email, and it has been EXCELLENT. They’ve responded quickly and throughly and sorted the questions/problems out swiftly. (It turns out that in Business Speak, “w/o” means “week of”, which is obvious now that I know it but which was truly bewildering before. Given my druthers I would not have a “week of” option in it, because I’d rather it just popped up on the appropriate days saying “get some reading done today!” or “write your Marvel movie blog post today” for things that are scheduled weekly/multiple times during a week, because I don’t like how it lays out the “week of” tasks, BUT AT LEAST I NOW UNDERSTAND WHAT IT MEANS. :))

It looks like this, which should let you see what I mean by “project name isn’t in the timestamp so there are random “write chapters” things in there” and stuff. There are also smaller tasks like “marvel movie blog post” which look like they’ve got all the information they need, but in fact they go under the General Work project and I’d like it to say that, too, y’know?

Overall, though, man, Skedpal is a really strong contender for my I Need An App For This scheduler.

Frosty Cross

Today was hard. It would have been my mom’s 69th birthday, her second since her death. This year was actually harder than last year, possibly because my entire friends list was overwhelmed with tributes and sorrow over Ursula Le Guin’s death, and, as someone said, grief stacks. It’s also that I miss her terribly, every day, and it’s just been…hard.

Since it’s her birthday and everything, I thought I’d mention the dance scholarship fund we set up in her name. Our goal now is $4000, an additional $1500 above where we are, which would extend the scholarship for another three years. I have to update the goal there, but $4K is our goal now.

We gave out the first scholarship last year, and the next one will be given out in May. We got pretty emotional about it last year, and I’m glad it’s something we’re doing. If you can, and are moved to, help out, that would be…a really wonderful, generous act. Thank you all. ♥