Tie-in novels are strange creatures. Connected to television shows, films, games, and other media properties, they cannot stand alone by their very nature. You would not pick up a tie-in novel without having preexisting knowledge of its original incarnation. These are not mere novelizations, but extensions of the universe. Some (the expansion of the Star Wars Universe, in particular) are successful, but most tie-in books are read by few and loved by none.
I’ve read a couple tie-in novels over the years – namely, some CSI mysteries in high school and thin, cheesy Supernatural paperbacks. I remember absolutely nothing about them, and the ones I bought I immediately gave away after finishing. And yet, when I became a super fan of the MTV series Teen Wolf last fall, I immediately checked to see if there were any tie-in novels. Lo and behold, there was exactly one: On Fire, by Nancy Holder. On Fire was published in 2012 and takes place after only the fifth episode of the first season, just after the Argents have simultaneously killed a mountain lion and punished Allison for skipping school with Scott. These early episodes of the show’s first season are the weakest of the entire series, so the Teen Wolf tie-in happened to tie in to the worst period of the show’s history. Not promising, and yet I bought it any way.
Within the last year, my Facebook feed has blown up with photographs of uncomfortable babies. I’m not talking about the usual candids or dress-up pics. I’m talking about the over-posed newborn photographs that have become de rigueur among young new parents these days. In these photographs, teeny tiny newborns wear oversized headgear (hats, bows, headbands, et cetera). They are usually naked. Often, they are lying on fuzzy blankets or in hands. But they all have one thing in common: those unnatural poses. Babies pretzled into balls. Babies conjured into dolls. Babies bent into shape. And these babies are always asleep, their eyes always closed. Have you ever seen a sleeping baby lying on its stomach with its tiny arms folded, its head resting across its forearms in real life? No, you have not. Because that is not a pose a newborn has ever naturally taken in his or her life.
But what really disturbs me about these newborn photographs (besides the fact they all look the same, no matter the identities of the baby or the photographer) is that they look eerily like another photograph trend from the past: the late-19th/early-20th century trend of mourning photography. Continue reading
Growing up and loving music in Indiana means coming to terms with John “John Cougar Mellencamp” Mellencamp. This is the music of our people, we are told. Jacks and Dianes sucking on chili dogs outside the Tastee Freeze, the lot of us. And I probably believed it for a long time; I unabashedly loved Americana rock for all of my childhood and abashedly loved it for a good chunk of my teen years and adulthood. We are the birth state of Michael Jackson, too, of course. But his music itself cannot be easily identified as Midwestern, or at least not the romanticized version of Indiana – the Hoosier State of cornfields and basketball hoops in every driveway. That all belongs to Mellencamp, with his rows of pink houses and dying farms.