Monday, April 28, 2014

Chain Letters

A few days ago, a deah friend of mine asked me over chat what I thought of chain letters. The connection broke and I never got to say my (admittedly) snarky answer. So here be my over-long answer to that question. ;)
If there were three things I could eliminate from the internet, one of them would be chain letters. Now, BEFORE you tell me that I'm mean, and that I don't want kittens, orphans, and nuns to be happy, please let me have my say.

Type A
Chain Letter Type A
There are three basic kinds of chain letters. The first kind is of the sort that tells you to 'pass it along' if you love your grandmother or if you're against bullying. I have gotten so many of these, and let me tell you. They are nothing but a cutesey way of blackmailing somebody. You are telling somebody that if they don't share something on the internet, that they don't care and that they are cold hearted. That is blackmail, and it shouldn't be tolerated. This is really hypocritical and especially hilarious if the chain letter is about bullying.
"Send this if you are against bullying! If you don't send this stupid internet meme, than that means you really must be for bullying!" Yeah. Using bullying to discourage bullying. Now that's classy.

Type B
Chain Letter Type B
This one doesn't get on my nerves as much as the other kind. Because hey! It might actually cheer somebody up who needs it badly. So unlike the first one, maybe this one should be permitted to exist. But still. It gets on my nerves, especially when they drag God or Angels into it. Buddy, I don't think that God works that way. God isn't going to consider giving you a blessing, and then decide against it because you didn't forward a stupid message! Seriously, I got one of these, tried it for the heck of it... no life changing news from somebody I love. Unless Mom making muffins for breakfast counted. ...Oh my gosh, these DO work!! (Of course, I'm joking, you knew that, right?)

Type C
Chain Letter Type C
This is kind of a subdivision of the previous one, except that it tells you that unless you forward something you're going to die. These are more hilarious than anything else. I've gotten these, and um... well, heheheheh... let's just say that I didn't forward them, and I still seem to be alive. Seem to be.

So in short, I don't like chain letters. I think they're silly and some of them, quite frankly, are rude.
I certainly hope I haven't made any of you that angry with me, so enjoy this GIF in reparation. Because we all like GIFs, right? :D

Minions!! We all like Minions here, right? BEEDO BEEDO BEEDO!!

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Young Adult Literature and How to Improve It

Hah. As if there even WAS a way to improve modern young adult literature (hereafter referred to as YAL). Seriously, until the following guidelines are met, just go to the library and grab some Dickens or Twain. (Unless you have been banished from the city libraries, like me)

Give me a heroine who DOES NOT have a boyfriend or give me death!!
Seriously. These books 'claim' to have independent young women who can take care of themselves... and they still have boyfriends. It is totally possible for a female character to have both a love interest and a will of her own. There's Princess Leia, Emma Woodhouse, Eowyn, and Stormy Llewellyn, to name a random few. Unfortunately, YAL authors seem to have lost the art of the well-balanced female character. Your average YAL heroine is moody, cold-hearted (These days Cold-Hearted is supposed to pass for cool and indpendent), extremely talented at something, in possession of a unique eye color, and of course, completely dependent on her boyfriend.
I had a pretty good opinion of Katniss Everdeen until that scene in Mockingjay where she saw Peeta on the TV screen and pressed her face and hands against it. Yeah. Icon of feminism, ladies and gentleman.

Can we have something that isn't Dystopian Future, Vampire-Based, Zombie Based, or a Romance?
I like Dystopia books. I like Vampires (provided they aren't sparkly, mind you) and I like Zombies. I even like Romance if it's done right. But these plot elements are so incredibly overused these days that I roll my eyes whenever I see a book with these things in them! Trust me, YAL authors of the world! We are able to have interest in things that aren't distopian, zombie, romance, vampire, or all at once! Maybe give us some historical fiction, or or hey! Here's an idea! A book about a regular bum kid like us who doesn't have powers, or go to magic school, or kill the bourgeois with a bow and arrow. You know, like Ramona Quimby for older kids!

No more magic school!
You heard me! Harry Potter played that card with titanic success, and as a consequence any subsequent attempt at the genre will seem like a blatant rip off. That didn't stop the author of the Percy Jackson series, anyway... seriously. It's even got the hero boy/awkward sidekick/clever girl trio going!

Must the plot always be on a world-shaking scale?
I love books who's story rocks the entire world it's set in. Stories like LOTR where the fate of the world is at stake, etc. But I also like stories that are contained on a very small scale. Stories who's events don't change the world beyond the lives of the characters. Examples would be Emma, or perhaps Bleak House. I like the sense that after the events of the story time keeps marching on, no stops. It gives me chills to think that the world of the story keeps on turning even after the hero's story is over. I'm not sure what I mean by this, but I suppose the point that I'm getting at is that the story doesn't have to be mind-bendingly epic. You can have a journey of self-discovery without travelling the world. YAL however, seems to suggest just the opposite.

That's all I can think of for now, after all, I don't actually read a great deal of YAL. Do any of you have any thoughts on this? Any other criteria for the improvement of YAL? Or maybe we should all just give up it and stick with older stuff. :P

Thursday, April 24, 2014

No. No You're Not

I've been wondering for a while if this comic was okay for the blog. It's not like there's anything wrong or inappropriate about it, it's just kind of mean. Mean in the sense that it disses and ridicules something that is ultimately well-meaning and harmless.
Should I? No. Here I go!

See? Not that bad. Please tell me I'm not the only one who gets irritated when a couple announced that they are parents with the statement: "We're pregnant!" I know what they mean, but it seems stupid to me.

Oh, and Sharks play tonight.

Edit 4/25/14: Darn you Sharks! What happened?!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz [2003]

"There's nothing worse than being alone on the evening of the day when one's [statue of a] cow has exploded"
-Ozzie Boone, Chapter Fifteen

Ever read a book that you just kind of 'fall' in love with? The kind of book that even after you're done, you carry it around, read your favorite parts, and talk about it unceasingly- so much that your friends roll their eyes and plug their ears at the mere mention of _____ by _____ _______.
That was me with Odd Thomas, except that I don't think I rambled about it enough to bug my friends that much. ;)
The thing is, it's a very unique book. It's dark and suspenseful, but there's also a lot of light and idealism.
The story centers around a young fry cook named Odd Thomas, who lives in the California desert town of Pico Mundo. Odd (and yes, that is his real name) can see ghosts, and they often come to him seeking justice. There's also his sweetheart, Stormy Llewellyn. They're destined to be together forever, as states the card they got from the Gypsy Mummy at a county fair.
Yeah, sounds really campy, but trust me, this is a lovely, touching, and very thrilling book. However, it is of the horror genre, and is pretty freaky at times. So, as much as I love this book and it's sequels, I can't really recommend it to anyone, unless I know for a fact that they like books like this, or if they've read and enjoyed other Dean Koontz novels. (I have to say, Stephen King readers might actually find Dean Koontz tame in comparison.)
So. This book is written in the 1st person, and is very well written. It's almost poetic, and puts very vivid mental images into your head. It almost feels like Pico Mundo is a real place!
Something I really like about these books is that they're very fast paced. From the first chapter, things are happening, and they don't stop. That isn't to say it's a non-stop rollercoaster of terror and suspense. This is, as my sister would put it, a book that let's you breathe.
The characters are very interesting. Aside from Odd and Stormy, there's his overweight father-figure, Ozzie Boone- the one who convinced him to write this 'memoir'. There's Chief Wyatt Porter and his wife, and- believe it or not- the ghost of Elvis.
All my gushy praise aside, this book and it's sequels aren't really for everybody. Well, what I mean is that not everyone will like them. They're quite dark and even though there's a lot of humor, some might find it a little droll and off-putting. The inappropriate content is never discussed at great length though, and the books have very stable morals (by Christian and Conservative standards, anyway.).
Admittedly, there are some flaws, I am willing to admit that. ;)
For one, characters just kind of 'show up' when they're needed. This isn't that obvious, but there is one bit that I thought was way too convenient. Oh, Odd has this mystery card with braille on it? Good thing he's got a blind chum who works down at the radio station!
...Yeah, that was kind of pulled out of nowhere. But that's a very small gripe about what is as a whole a very good book.

The Verdict: A
Interesting, quirky, and completely unpredictable, Odd Thomas offers a very memorable and suspenseful story. The horror elements are balanced out by wit and romance, the end result being a very satisfying read. Like I said before though, I can't really recommend this book to anybody unless I know they won't find the horror elements distasteful.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Whoo, Camera!

First order of business: Happy Easter! Well, now it's more like "Happy Low Monday!" but whatever. You get the sentiment. ;)
Second order of business: Dad has a nice camera that he's sharing with me, so now my chibi comics don't have to be all grainy and underexposed. Huzzah! It also doubles as a video camera, so I'm really exited that I can film short movies and try out different forms of cinematography. I think I'll try a Pan's Labyrinth-style tree-segue first. ;D
Anyhway, here's a comic I thought of last night during a stressful playoff game. Or it was stressful until our Boys in Teal took the lead 7-2!

Buuuut we're far from out of the woods yet, hence this comic.
I hope you all had a good Easter! God Bless. :)

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Liebster Thingamabobamajigg

Because it's fun to make up silly words every now and then. ;)
Um, anyway, I was nominated for the Liebster Award by Miss Jane Bennet who hails from Classical Ramblings, so thank you very much Jane (if I am permitted to call you that), I owe you one!

~Thank and link back the person who nominated you
~List eleven facts about yourself
~Answer the eleven questions asked by the blogger who nominated you
~Nominate 9 bloggers who have fewer than 200 followers (you can't nominate the blogger who nominated you)
~Ask them eleven questions
~Let them know of their nomination!

Oh no. Um...
1. I love Axolotls. If you haven't heard of these fascinating animals, you should totally research them when you've got the time!

2. I once got into the backyard of an old, abandoned house and tried to find a way inside while my sister stood guard outside the fence. I'm not sure that's legal. Oh well. If it is, it's a victimless crime.
3. It's number three and I'm already drawing a blank for ideas.
4. Oh look, this time last year I was reading Les Miserables! Right now I'm reading Emma. I wonder what I'll be reading this time next year!
5. My sister has two rabbits named Chester and Rocket. (That's not really relevant to anything in the world, but I thought you should know. Well, she thought you should know.)
6. Hockey is my favorite sport. That's... pretty obvious though.
7. Absolutely terrified of getting my ears pierced. I could go zip-lining, eat sashimi, watch Cats, defend Caninophobic siblings from attacking neighboring dogs. But a simple, safe procedure that is relatively painless? [shudders]
8. I'm an aspiring author, and yet I have exactly no finished manuscripts to my name. :P
9. Really, 11 of these?
10. Um... Hey, speaking of 11, my favorite Doctor is the 11th Doctor (Matt Smith).
11. I love scarfs. And jackets. And hats.

~What movie genre is your favorite?
Well, I like Dark Fantasy movies like Pan's Labyrinth or Coraline. I also like movies that are just kind of fun, like Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol or Aladdin. Just so that you don't think I'm a hipster. Because I'm not.

~Do you like musicals? If so, list a few favorites.
I've always liked Les Miserables and The Nightmare Before Christmas (does that count if it's not a stage play?). Phantom of the Opera and The Music Man are good too. :D

~Favorite modern author?
Probably Dean Koontz. He writes horror/suspense novels, and he's Catholic-y. So there isn't anything too horrid. ;)

~Do you prefer reading a paperback or hardback book?
Ooof... Hard one (eurrrgh pun)! I think paperbacks, since they're easier to read and tote around.

~Favorite time period in history?
The American Revolution. It's so interesting!

~Least favorite food?
Bacon. Not because I think it tastes bad (It's okay when it's not cold and rubbery) but it always makes me sick, and like most people, I hate things that make me sick.

~Do you have any historical role models? If so, who and why?
I really admire George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. But (I know this is going to sound bad) there's also some things I like about Robert E. Lee. When he had to surrender, I read that he accepted it with great dignity and gallantry, and that is something truly admirable.

~Fictional character who's most like you?
My sister says I remind her of Elsa from Frozen because I'm prone to anxiety and I'm her big sister. I personally think I'm like Donald Duck. ;) Loud, almost impossible to understand, and always in a flaming rage about something or another.

~Do you ever take personality quizzes? If so, list a few of your favorites.
Yeah, I take them every now and then. I took a Lost one, Once Upon a Time, Frozen, Kingdom Hearts, and Les Miserables. I had a good laugh when I came out as Rumplestiltskin in the Once Upon a Time one. XD

~Favorite book when you were little?
I really liked these Magic Tree House books. Has anyone else read those? Because I used to LOVE them. I still like to grab one for a quick read every now and then. :)

~Thoughts on Kindles?
They're pretty cool, and really save on space if you're traveling, and I love the dictionary feature. So that's neat. What I don't like about them is that they don't have the same 'feel' as reading normal books, and I like having physical copies of the books, because... well, I don't know why, I just do. You don't have to charge real books, either ;)

My questions...

1. If you could be any animal for a day, which one would you choose?
2. Yoda vs. Gandalf, who would win?
3. What are a few of your favorite songs?
4. Favorite Holiday?
5. Sorry for all the 'favorite' questions, they must be *so* boring. XD Anyhoo, what are a few books that you really love?
6. If a total stranger told you to follow them, would you?
7. At bedtime, do you go straight to sleep, or do you read a book or something first?
8. Favorite composer?
9. What time of day do you feel like you work best in? If that makes any sense. :P
10. Text speech- saving time or just plain laziness?
11. What's the farthest you've ever been from home? Geographically speaking.
Of thee I zing...
Hannah from Indigo Montoya
I don't really know anyone else who I'd nominate, so howabout this. If your blog has less than 200 followers, feel free. :P
Yes, I did just throw the rules to the wind. This is why I can't play sports.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Cats [1998]

My sister said that I 'agreed' to watch Cats with her yesterday, aka, Thursday. At the time, I was deeply exited about an excursion to my best friend's community college campus (it's complicated), so I was in the mood to say yes to almost anything. I forgot immediately afterward what I had promised, and went right back to whatever it is I do all day.

So Thursday came, and my sister reminded me that we were watching Cats that night.

I was possessed by a horror and a cowardice previously unknown to man. My sister already was a Cats sympathizer, because she likes to play 'Memory' on her violin. Me? I still run away screaming at the mere mention of the word 'Jellicle'. But anyway, on with the review!

Right at the beginning there's some really cool theater effects, and no matter how psychedelic and ridiculous the play is, it's always nice to see some cool theater effects. And oh my goodness was this musical psychedelic and ridiculous. There were endless song and dance numbers, scenes that felt like they had been dancing for hours and would never stop, and the plot! The actual plot was simple enough to fit into fifteen minutes! But it's stretched out with the aforementioned eternal dance numbers and embarrassing songs.

And before you say “But Monica, it's a musical, I thought you knew that when you started watching!”

Yes. I knew it was a musical. But then again I'm used to musicals with coherent plots, gorgeous music, no dancing, and characters you actually care about. I won't say that Cats doesn't have one or two touching moments, because it did. Memory was a lovely scene, staging, singing, music, the whole ten miles. Very beautiful, but even that wasn't enough to make up for Rum Tum Tugger.
Don't mind me... I'll just be back here silently
praying for my own death...

I detest that character and his introductory song as much as it's possible to hate a fictional character. He was annoying, and was extremely sleazy. I'm sure him sticking his butt into female cat's faces while they fall in a faint was supposed to be cute, but I was still in shock over his costume. Sweet heaven above, is it POSSIBLE for an outfit to be any tighter? That 'costume' left nothing to the imagination.

I was prepared for terrifying costumes and splaying people, but I wasn't ready for the racy dance numbers. Seriously, that bordered on inappropriate.

All that aside, the plot wasn't interesting. No suspense or depth to it at all, and the middle (scratch that. Make that every scene that wasn't Memory) was so tedious that I think I might have temporarily misplaced my mind. Libby tells me that I had to pause the movie and compulsively listen to Stars from Les Miserables to regain my sanity. Of course I'm kidding about the loss of sanity thing. I just got really, really bored and asked my equally bored sister if she would mind listening to Stars.

I mean, you know a movie isn't doing it for you when you keep checking the time and asking yourself “I wonder where we'd be in [so and so movie] right now...”

The Verdict: D-

I can't give it an F (as I feel it deserves for Rum Tum Tugger's [ahem] icky dance) because of Memory. I can't believe I just rated something lower than the Tale of Despereaux movie. But then again, at least the tale of Despereaux didn't make me want to go out and exterminate all mice. This movie has turned me off cats for a while. But then again, my Grandma's cat Luna is a wonderful cat, and if any cat can make up for this horror, it's her. After all, it's not the cat's fault silly humans thought this musical would be a good idea!
Maybe some prayers for our kitty, she hasn't been
doing very well lately. :(

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Coraline [2009]

Making a good adaptation is weird. Just because the movie of the book isn't just like the book doesn't mean that it's a bad movie. Of course, this isn't always the case. The Tale of Despereaux movie was terrible, and The Hobbit trilogy is... well, it's a big enough problem that I had to say trilogy.

Coraline on the other hand, isn't just like the book, but it's an awesome adaptation.

Where do I start... well, the film is stop-motion, and it is gorgeous. The sets are so detailed, and I heard that a crewmember was hired to knit clothes for the characters on teeny-tiny little knitting needles! The character design was cool, too. Especially Coraline and The Other Mother. I like the versatility you can get in stop-motion when it comes to designing characters.

I love the music, it's got kind of a Danny Elfman feel to it, but the composer is actually Bruno Coulais. There's some very good use of pizzicato strings and a creepy kid's choir singing in nonsense language.

Wybie, as always, dressed like a fireman.
Anyhoo, there is a few things that they added that weren't in the book- but it didn't bother me at all. The biggest change they made was that there's another kid who lives next door to Coraline- the unfortunately named Wyborne, or Wybie. Usually, adding characters is not a good idea (Boldo from the disastrous, evil incarnate Despereaux movie), but I actually really liked Wybie. The book has a lot of inner narration and Coraline wandering around exploring by herself. So it makes story-telling a lot easier if they have a second character for Coraline to work off of.

Aside from the addition of Wybie, the story is kept mostly intact from the book. A little girl, roughly 11 or 12 years old moves into a duplex with her mum and dad. However, the other side of the duplex isn't occupied, and there's a little door in Coraline's house that's bricked off. Late one night, Coraline finds herself drawn to the other side of the door (now mysteriously opened up), and on the other side, she finds a world just like her own, except that everyone inexplicably has button eyes. There's another mother, another father, even another Wybie. Things seem way better on the other version of her life. Her parents now have endless amounts of time for her, and there's always delicious snacks around. However, Coraline soon finds out that this other world is actually quite sinister.

The Other Mother
The movie doesn't distill any of the dark or slightly disturbing elements of the book, and the story plays out very well on screen. It's always neat to see how a book plays out in movie-format, especially something as strange and unique as Coraline.

Well, as much as I love this movie even I have to admit that there are... problems. Well, one problem. See, two of Coraline's neighbors, Miss Spink and Miss Forcible, are implied to be former burlesque dancers, and in the Other world, there's a scene where they are **ahem** scantily clad. The movie gets away with this because it's actually two younger women in old lady costumes. Before that gets revealed though it's um... more disturbing than the Other Mother in her spider mode.
My reaction to the above mentioned scene.

Oh, and speaking of The Other Mother... Coraline is a story written for all ages, children to adults, and the same goes for the movie. But there are a few things that you might want to know before you pop this into the player for the young'ns. Naturally, spoilers follow.

If Coraline wants to stay in the Other world, she has to let The Other Mother replace her eyes with buttons. Coraline refuses, and soon finds out that this has happened to at least three other children before. And the other children are kind of, well, dead now. It's kind of a disturbing twist, and it might freak out young children. My little sister is ten, and she wasn't scarred for life, but more sensitive kids might be freaked out. So you know, use your own judgment.

The Verdict: A
Coraline is a terrific adaptation of a terrific book. If you like the book, this is worth a watch, and vice versa. The sets are very well made, and the look/feel of the movie is kooky and whimsical while still being suspenseful and creepy. It's not perfect, you know, there's some suggestive humor in it. But if you like this kind of movie, I would totally recommend Coraline.
Age Appropriateness: Preteens and up, but it varies from person to person. I know some adults who would be uncomfortable with Coraline.