Friday, March 28, 2014

Being a Sharks Fan

[We interrupt your regular programming to bring you something sentimental about Hockey.]

Being a San Jose Sharks fan means that you're there for their highs and lows. Being a Sharks Fan means sometimes you have to shrug your shoulders and say “Oh well, next time!”. Being a Sharks Fan means you're a member of the underdog team, and that means sometimes you have to lose.

The Sharks have never won a Stanley Cup in all their 23 year history, but we still love 'em. Maybe it's their loveable mascot, Sharkie, maybe it's the belief that if we hang on one more year without lapsing to the Anaheim Ducks it'll be the Shark's lucky year. Or maybe it's just that we find Brodie Brazil, Randy Hahn and Drew Remenda funny.

Whatever it is, we still love you Sharks, and will never stop cheering you on!

That having been said, this post probably looks really silly to non-Hockey people. After all, it's just a game where toothless, drunken, jocks stick knives in their shoes and punch each other! That is a true fact, but everybody's got something weird and inconsequental that they like to get obsessive and sentimental over. I personally don't get the appeal of Baseball.

Sports are truly a neutral thing. It's not like one side is good and one side is evil. But still. It's hard not to believe that you're on the side of light, hope, and all things beautiful and that the other team is evil incarnate.

I guess that's the fun of Hockey, though! You get to throw your whole self into cheering for your team, and when the game's over, maybe you have the strength and morale to throw your whole self into things that actually do matter.


You probably guessed by now that we went to a Sharks game and they lost, hence this outburst of Sharks loyalty. But that's totally okay, because it wasn't a shut-out! We actually got to see them score, three times! Huzzah! (This is a big deal because we've been to several sporting events over the past five years, and every single time our team lost without even getting in one goal. So this is proof that we're not cursed. ;)

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Notre-Dame de Paris (by Victor Hugo) [1831]

Kind of a weird cover, but the longer
you spend looking at the detail,
the cooler it gets.
Notre-Dame de Paris, or The Hunchback of Notre Dame, is a sweeping novel about Gothic Architechture, The Printing Press, and why Louis XI of France was lame. There's also a little subplot about a teenage girl named Esmaralda, the troubled priest Claude Frollo who's obsessed with her, and a tragically deformed young man named Quasimodo.

In all seriousness, Monsieur Hugo likes to go off on diversions a lot. Some of them are pretty interesting, others are... not pretty interesting. I suppose he has that in common with Charles Dickens.

Diversions aside, this is a really good book (and even the diversions are good, I just don't have a very mature attention span). Contrary to what the English title suggests, the main character isn't the hunchbacked Quasimodo, but Esmeralda.

Esmeralda is stunningly beautiful, and also a very compassionate and trusting person. It's this kindness that causes Quasimodo to love her, and it's her beauty that infatuates Claude Frollo. However, Esmeralda fancies the handsome captain Phoebus, who's a stuff-shirted peacock. Well, not literally a stuff-shirted peacock, but he certainly is one in spirit. Here's where Esmeralda not only gets irritatingly stupid, but also painfully realistic. Despite the fact that he only wants her so that he can have some fun for a few nights, Esmeralda considers him her knight in shining armor because he rescued her from men who were trying to kidnap her (Frollo and Quasimodo, actually). In a climactic scene, Esmeralda's whole-hearted devotion and love for Phoebus gets her into a royal fruitcake of trouble. I thought that was incredibly stupid of her, but it makes sense in a sad way. Girls always stick by men who aren't necessarily good because they (a) Believe they can change them, (b) are desparete, or (c) Believe that their good points make up for any bad ones.

Claude Frollo is an interesting antagonist. We're told about his life, and from what we can see, he isn't a bad man. Unlike in the atrocious Disney adaptation where Frollo kills Quasimodo's mother then tries to kill baby Quasimodo, Frollo finds the abandoned Baby at the church and takes him in. When Quasimodo was growing up, he knew Frollo as the only human being who didn't treat him with disgust. So at first, Claude Frollo is not a bad man. He was stern and cold, but he was not evil. It was only when he let himself be carried away by an infatuation that his soul became twisted.

Then of course, there's Quasimodo. Esmeralda is the main character of the novel, but Quasimodo is who you think of when somebody says 'Hunchback of Notre-Dame'. Quasimodo is one of the most tragic characters that literature has to offer. Rejected all his life, only to lose everything that he ever loved in one bleak day.

The writing for this book is really good- I mean, it's a classic for a reason. It's well told and executed. Something I love about Victor Hugo's writing is how poetical it is, and also the vivid mental images in puts in your head. Your mileage may vary as to whether or not you like how unapologetically dramatic Victor Hugo's writing style is, but it really is a gorgeous book, and it smothered my soul with ennui. (See? I can be unapologetically dramatic too!)

The Verdict: A
Notre-Dame de Paris was one of those books whose ending left me kind of silent. You know, you finish it, and you can't quite believe that you just finished it, and you just kind of sit there for a while, mulling over the last few lines. Of course, I have to cut through my unadultarated praise and say that it wasn't without it's flaws. There were some pacing issues, and I found Frollo yelling "DAMNATION!!" as he fell to his death really cheesy in a not-so-good way. But this is a very good read, and I would highly reccomend it to anyone who doesn't mind soul-shatteringly sad endings.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Dale Face

Yes, I (sorta) like The Walking Dead. It's not without it's problems, sure, but it's a fairly good series. Except for the bottomless stupidity of certain characters *cough*andrea*cough*.
Anyhoo, in Season 2 (aka, the Soap Opera season), Dale is disapproving of Shane's evilness, so he just sits around and stares at him. No seriously, that's what he does. There's a whole scene of people staring at each other, it's kind of weird.

Drawing Dale's old guy hat is really difficult.

Staring... staring... staring...
Yeah, you know it's been kind of a slow day when the best comic you can find is one written back in December. :)

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Corpse Bride [2005]

With this hand, I will lift your sorrows. Your cup will never be empty, for I will be your wine. With this candle, I will light your way into darkness. With this ring, I ask you to be mine.
-The Wedding Vows

Where do I start... Well, Corpse Bride is the story of young Victor van Dort, a shy man in an arranged marriage with a woman named Victoria Everglot. However, at his wedding rehearsal, he gets nervous and messes up his vows. Humiliated, he runs away into the forest and practices the vows by himself. He places the wedding ring on the 'finger' of a dry bush, which actually does turn out to be a finger. Out of the ground rises the corpse of a dead bride who declares they are now married. It's based on a Jewish Folk Tale, and is much better than my shaky synopsis makes it sound.

First off, the film is gorgeous. The scenery may be drab and grey, but it's such a marvel to look at. I love the look and feel of stop-motion, and if you asked me why, I'd probably pop this movie into the player. And the music is terrific. There's a jazzy, danse-macabre sound associated with the land of the dead, which makes copious use of 'bony' sounding xylophone and saxaphone. That's all well and good, and really fun to listen to. For me though, the really gorgeous tracks are the ones that repeat the main theme heard in the opening credits. It's light, twinkly, and really brings out the more touching side of the plot. Danny Elfman makes very good use of celesta in those tracks.

Victor and Victoria off to a good start.
There are some problems though, most notably with the opening song 'According to Plan'. According to Plan is a fun song to listen to, and it does a good job of setting up the story. The problem is that it is sung by Victor and Victoria's parents who are not nice people. Victor's parents just care about climbing the social ladder, and Victoria's parents are snobs who are marrying off their daughter because they are going bankrupt. In musicals (Corpse Bride only has four musical numbers, but it still counts) you usually introduce your hero- as well as set up the plot- in the opening song. You know, instead of the parents tromping around Hurumphing, the song could have been about what Victor and Victoria felt about the marriage.

Victor trying to boost Emily's mood after he said something
tactless. Again.
Another issue is well, the land of the dead. What is it exactly? It's neither Heaven or Hell, but some kind of limbo? It's just like being alive except that you're decomposing. The end of the movie implies some kind of eternal rest, but what exactly is the land of the dead for? It's not like in Odd Thomas where ghosts stay here because they have unfinished business (Though it does seem like once you let go of this world, you ascend to a higher plane of existance or something). They just kinda dance around and run a cabaret.

And there's a stereotypical jerk priest. It doesn't bug me too much, since the dead people at the end seem to respect churches and such, but still. [eyeroll] On the bright side, Christopher Lee voices the vile vicar, and you can't go wrong with Christopher Lee. :)

Now that I've gone on about what I didn't like, I can feel free to gush about all that was right with this movie.

Despite his unfortunate tendency to say the wrong thing at the worst possible time, I really liked Victor. He truly wanted to do the right thing in the difficult situation he found himself in, and he had a sense of responsibility towards both the women he found himself engaged to. While the film satirizes the unromantic, practical view of marriage, it also shows that there is a certain responsibility that comes with marriage, and that it isn't something to be taken lightly.

Victoria was a pretty good character. Like Cosette, she gets a lot of flak for being the one who got chosen in the end, but I liked her. She's shy and quiet, but she does have a will of her own, and takes things into her own hands at various points in the plot.

Emily- the titular 'Corpse Bride' had a good character arc, and her plight was really heart-wrenching. She did the right thing in the end despite it not being what she really wanted, and I really loved the development and conflict in her character.

The film has a very touching and selfless ending that- for me- almost made up for that incredibly cheesy scene of the villain walking down the hallway laughing evilly. Almost. Oh yeah, I suppose I forgot to talk about the film's villain. Well, he had understandable motivation, and you're invested enough in the characters to want him to get what he deserves, but... Yeah. He walked down a hallway laughing evilly. He's a bad guy who puts the B in subtle.

The Verdict: B+
It was kind of hard to watch this movie without constantly comparing it to The Nightmare Before Christmas. Nightmare was a terrific, clever, fun ride, and I think it's a better movie. But Corpse Bride has very genuine heart and told a moving story with a beautiful ending.

Thursday, March 13, 2014


I have braces, and I am not enjoying it. Oh yes, I get happy and exited whenever I see that my overbite is closing, or that there's finally room for my wonky tooth to turn around the right way, but really. Even that's sometimes not enough to quell the storm of complaints festering inside me when my teeth hurt. Or at the anticipation of my teeth hurting.

The envelope reads 'Last Will', just in case it was too smudgy to be readable. XD

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Fantasy vs. Reality in Pan's Labyrinth

"When I was little I believed in faeries. I believed in a lot of things I don't anymore."
-Mercedes [Pan's Labyrinth]
Pan's Labyrinth is currently sitting comfortably near the top of my list of favorite movies. It's a beautiful film with awesome cinematography, music, costumes and makeup- okay, pretty much everything is awesome.
Pan's Labyrinth is one of those movies that just sits with you, and you can't let it go because there's too much to think about, and I love the kind of movie that doesn't leave you.

For those of you who aren't familiar with Pan's Labyrinth (though this post is going to be spoiler filled, just so you know), it's the story of a 12 year old girl during the Spanish Civil war who must complete three tasks to prove she's the long-lost princess of the underworld. Now, when they say 'underworld' in this, it is meant in the traditional Greek sense, just a place where all the dead go (I'm not even sure if it's that, or just a name for a non-specific magical realm). They do not mean underworld in the Christian sense, otherwise known as Hell. (and the Faun is supposed to be like the mythical creature, not Satan. Goat horns do not equal Prince of Lies.).

However, whether or not the magic elements are real or not is actually ambigous. I'm going to talk about both points of view of the movie and 'analyze' them. Inasmuch as I can analyze anything.

The Non-Magical Point of View
Towards the end of the film, Ofelia is talking to the Faun at the entrance of the underworld. Her cruel step-father comes up from behind her, and the camera is showing us what he sees. That is- Ofelia holding her baby brother and talking to... Nobody.

This seems to indicate that the whole movie is either a fantasy created by a stressed out little girl, or the crazed delusions of an insane little girl. It does seem plausible. Let's take a look at the tasks.

The first task is to retrive a key from a giant frog that lives inside the roots of a giant tree. The faun tells Ofelia that the frog is siphoning away the life of the tree. This sounds vaugely similar to how Ofelia's Mother's pregnancy is slowly killing her. Ofelia loves her mother very much, and is suffering conflicted feelings about her brother (at least for the moment...).

The second task is to brave the Pale Man and retrive a dagger from his room. The Pale man's room has a table just brimming with all sorts of delicious looking food. This is after Ofelia is sent to bed with no dinner- so she's probably really hungy.

You can kind of see how the magical elements mirror what's going on in Ofelia's life at the moment. It almost makes sense, except for a few things.

The Magical Point of View
First of all, there's the Mandrake. When Ofelia tells The Faun about her mother's illness, he gives her a Mandrake Root to put under her bed. When Ofelia does that, her Mother's condition improves significantly. When her step-father finds it and throws it into the fire, her Mother's condition grows worse and worse until she dies during premature delievery.

Then there's also the Chalk Door. At one point, Ofelia is locked in her room with a guard at the door. However- she is shown drawing an outline of a door on the wall with the magic chalk the Faun gave her. Later, Mercedes and some others burst into the room to see if she's still there. What do they find? No Ofelia, and the chalk outline of a door on the wall, that's what. And this is in a room where the windows are too small for even a kid to slide out of!

That... doesn't add up. Looking at this movie through a non-magical point of view is very interesting and almost works, but in the end doesn't.

"But Monica!" cry ye skeptics, "What about her stepfather! He didn't see the Faun! That proves that the whole thing is a fantasy!"

Yes. The fact that Ofelia's stepfather didn't see the Faun opens the door for alternate interpretation of the film. But! Let's think about Ofelia's stepfather for a moment. He's basically a monster. He's no better than the Pale Man who (it's implied by a pile of little shoes in his chamber) eats children. Ofelia's stepfather is ruthless, brutal, in otherwords a total psycho.

Do you think that somebody with a heart that twisted and gnarled would be allowed to see the magic? A slogan commonly used for the film was L'innocence est plus forte que mal or in English, Innoncence is stronger than evil. If your heart is clouded with evil, it makes it harder to see light, at least in fairy tale logic.

So at the end of the day, I think the fantastical elements really were real in Pan's Labyrinth, due to the evidence above, and because the director himself said that he 'thought' that they were real. ;) But you can still take the route of the gritty and depressing, since it mostly works. Like I said though, I prefer to think that the magic is real, because otherwise, this movie is a lot darker and lightless than it already is. And even a cynic like me loves the light (Grantaire, anyone?).

While we're here, I'd like to talk about the ending a little bit. Whether or not the magic was real or not, the Faun's statement that 'She returned to her Father' is true. If the magic was real, she returned to her father, the king of the underworld. If it wasn't real- she returned to her Father in Heaven.

The director, Guillermo del Toro, defines the ending like this. The tyrant's reign ends with his death, but the martyr's reign begins with his death.

That's a quote from the Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard, who I am by not really a fan of. But I thought that was a gorgeous quote, and worth mentioning, and a good way to end the post.

Happy Existential Musings!


And yes, that oxymoron was quite intentional.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

The Sunshine Award

The happy picture makes me want to dance
like Julie Andrews!
Miss Jane Bennet of Classical Ramblings nominated me for this Sunshine Award, which is totally awesome, thank you!
Anyway, there's a tag thingy, and I'm no good at introductions, so I'll cut to the chase.

~Do you play an instrument, and if so, what? (And what's your favorite song to play?)
I mostly play Flute, though I also play some Guitar and a microscopic smidgen of Piano. On Flute I suppose my favorite song to play is  Sally's Song from The Nightmare Before Christmas. It isn't technically impressive, but it's a very moving song. As for Guitar, I like playing the chords for It Never Rains in Southern California. XD

~Dream vacation?
Well for starters, I'd love to go to the Luxembourg Gardens in Paris (for obvious reasons, heh heh), but even more than that I'd like to go to Nikko, Japan. I hear it's gorgeous there!

~What's the time period you most like to read about?
I read a lot of stuff set in the 1800's, so I suppose then. But I'd like to read something set in the early 1900's. Maybe it's time for some John Steinbeck...

~If you could steal one character's wardrobe for a day, whose would you pick and why? (Bonus question: where would you go in your new clothes?)
Oh boy... I um... am not sure! I think I'd borrow Maleficent's dramatic black cape and headdress getup and wear that to In-N-Out Burger, then I'd act as casual as I would if I were wearing normal clothes. And enjoy the bewhildered stares. ^.^

~Do you sew, and if so (sink me!), what?
I don't sew that often, but I've made a vest and a lot of Les Miserables rosettes.

~Do you write or read poetry much?
I like to write poetry, but I don't read a whole lot of it. I probably should, literacy and all...
~What Jane Austen character do you think would be the easiest/most fun to swap places with?
Probably Emma, we've got somewhat similar personalities, and it's the only Jane Austen book I've read. Well, I did read Pride and Prejudice for school, but I didn't enjoy it that much [dies of shame]

~Thoughts on tea?
It's good! I mean, I'm not all into Tea-Time and Crumpets with Her Highness, but I find it's really theraputic if you're feeling anxious.

~Favorite funny quote?
...Oh man, my head is exploding from the endless possibilities here! Unfortunately, all of them fled my head right at this moment and I can't think of anything except Olaf in Frozen when Anna introduces him to Kristoff and his Reindeer.
Olaf: What's the hairy mammal thing?
Anna: That is Sven.
Olaf: Right, and who's the reindeer?
Anna: Um- that is Sven.
That- and practically ALL of MST3k. That's pretty obscure though ;)

~Has any book completely surprised you with its quality (i.e. have you ever read a book that you thought would be bad and turned out to be good, or vice versa?)
Well, for Vice-Versa, I thought Emily of New Moon would be totally awesome, like Anne of Green Gables. And... it wasn't. I didn't even finish it because Emily was so insufferable a character. Gr! On the more positive side, I wasn't sure that I would like To Kill a Mockingbird (you know... an 'Important' book that you have to read for school), but it was actually a really excellent book!

~What's your favorite imaginary creature (if you have one)?
Phoenix(es?) and Japanese Dragons are pretty cool!

My questions...

~Have you ever faked an accent for an entire day, just to see what people would do? If so, which one?
~Pixar or Disney?
~If you could hang out with Anne Shirley or Gandalf, which one would you pick, and why?
~What is the most awesome-bone-shatteringly-cool song you've ever heard?
~On the other hand, what's the most skin-peelingly bad song you've ever had the misfortune to hear?
~Are you good with dates, or do you usually need to keep a schedule?

I doth nominate...

Hannah of Indigo Montoya

It's been a time and a half, later!

Friday, March 7, 2014

Awesome Music: Coraline End Credits [Bruno Coulais]

I recently saw the Coraline movie, and despite the fact that I was high on Benadryl (I was mucho sick) and was having trouble staying awake, I really enjoyed it! I'll have to write a review sometime, but I'd like to review the book first. Anyway, my sister and I just went nuts over the cool credits music, take a listen!

Creepy, mysterious, and bizarrely childish. This music is absolutely perfect for a movie like Coraline. I love the timpani boom at the very beginning, the crazy pizzicato strings, and the children's chorus singing that... strange gibberish language. I looked it up, whatever it is they are saying, it's total nonsense. I like that, it adds a lot to the eerie mood that you couldn't get if it were just a foreign language like French or Spanish. But you can pick out the occasional word, or syllable that sounds like an english word. Words like 'Twinkly', 'Faerie', 'Twilight', 'Freedom', 'Nearer' and 'Sing'. Pretty weird and random, but it gives me chills just imagining what they could possibly be singing about!

Adios Amigos,