Wednesday with Words: A Story and a Lie

I really enjoyed The Night Gardener by Johnathan Auxier, which my mom got me for Valentines Day. It delves into such an interesting problem: what is the difference between a story, and a lie? I think this quote sums it up nicely…

Night Gardener


Wednesdays with Words is hosted by ladydusk.

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Chapter 4 of The Tangle will be up on Saturday, and I’ll have a reminder post then, but… I might have another, special post or two (or three, it depends) going up at some point this week, or maybe next week. I’m not sure at this point. However, I think these posts will definitely benefit the geeks among us… 🙂

Movie Review: Beauty and the Beast (2017)

Beauty and the BeastControversy isn’t all it’s cracked up to be…


When I heard that Disney was going to be doing a live action Beauty and the Beast film, I was, of course, extraordinarily excited. Although I’ve only seen the animated film once, and I’m not a huge fan of Disney Princess movies anyway, I loved the 2015 Cinderella film, which was absolutely brilliant. So, of course, I was on the edge of my seat to see if Disney could pull it off again.

And then I heard about the controversy. I’d been planning to spend some time with a couple of my friends from church and go to see the movie together, but what I heard made me hesitate. Beauty and the Beast, according to its director, contains Disney’s first gay character. Of course, controversy immediately exploded. Many Christian families decided to boycott the movie. Disney had betrayed them, they said. They were politicizing a supposedly family film, they said, making it into just another part of the normalization agenda. In part, having seen the film with my eyes open for said agenda, I have to agree.

Partially, at least.

But, here’s the thing: If nobody had said anything, I think all the ‘exclusive gay moment’ and LGBT innuendo stuff, if that’s what its intended to be, would have been, for the most part, lost on the majority of the audience. Even the ‘cross-dressing joke’ comes off as more silly and goofy than as a real statement. The only real thing I had any problems with was the final grand ballroom dance scene, which closes the film, where Le Fou, the supposedly gay character, is shown dancing with a male partner, while everyone else is paired off male-and-female. The thing is, the shot is literally about two seconds long, and if this one two second shot was removed, and if nobody had made a big deal about this, I feel like the rest of the stuff would have come off as more of the silliness of a couple of bumbling characters.

Anyway, that’s my say on the controversy. What did I think of the actual film?

Well, to be honest, on the surface this is an amazing movie. Spectacular CGI, costumes, choreography, and singing make Beauty and the Beast a feast for the eyes and ears. But… I felt it lacked the strong storytelling of Cinderella. Don’t get me wrong, I got a bit choked up when Belle rode off from the Beast’s castle to rescue her father, and maybe at a few other points as well, but it was almost as if most of what we knew about these characters had just been told to us, instead of shown. The Beast’s flip from angry captor to smitten suitor seemed to happen far too quickly. In the end, the film just didn’t resonate with me like Cinderella did, even though I probably have much more in common with Belle than with Cinderella herself. A+ for effort Disney, but, unfortunately, you just didn’t quite hit the mark.


Final Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

“Are modern takes on tales as old as time ever quite as good as the old versions?”


Thanks for reading! See you again soon for Wednesday with Words.

🙂

 

Wednesday with Words: There is a Tide…

Just a quick Wednesday with Words post today. I found this William Shakespeare passage quoted in David McCullough’s John AdamsApparently, it was one of Mrs. Adams’ favorite quotes.

Tides


On my reading list this week:

The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart: My friends have been recommending this series to me forever, and finally I stole borrowed it from one of them and just stared reading… Pretty good so far, and very quirky.

Curtain by Agatha Christie: I love the Hercule Poirot mysteries. You can read them in any order, and Poirot himself is very entertaining. Unfortunately, Curtain is, apparently, his last case! I can’t wait to find out what happens…


Wednesdays with Words is hosted by ladydusk.

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Wednesday with Words: An Act of the Will

NOTE: Sorry this post is late. I should have put this up yesterday, but I forgot, so, here goes…


At evening service in my church this Sunday, our pastor was talking about setting time apart to worship God on our own. I believe this is something I need to work on more, and I’ve been trying to read a chapter of A Young Woman After God’s Own Heart by Elizabeth George every evening since then, for a sort of devotional. I got this book almost a year ago (!), but I never finished it. I did find this wonderful quote the other day, though, and I really wanted to share it with you:

Love


Wednesday with Words is hosted by ladydusk.

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Game Review: Portal 2

Portal 2Aperture Laboratories has had some remodeling done… and it’s not pretty.


DISCLAIMER: The following review contains heavy SPOILERS for both Portal and Portal 2, as well as a discussion of human scientific testing. Please proceed at your own risk.

As you probably know, if you read my review, I loved the first Portal game. It’s smart, sciency atmosphere, awesome puzzle gameplay and portal physics, sarcastic AI companion, and perfect touch of delightfully dark humor made it one of my favorite games to date, if not my absolute favorite ever. So, of course, I assumed that I would love-love-love the sequel, Portal 2, just as much.

I was wrong.

Partially.

Let me explain.

Portal 2 takes place an undisclosed, but certainly long, period of time after the first game. At the end of Portal (see what I said about SPOILERS?), Chell, the player character, destroys and escapes the testing facility, only to be dragged back belowground once more. At the beginning of Portal 2, we see that she has been in some kind of coma, or hypersleep, inside Aperture Laboratories. She is awakened by a small robot named Wheatley, who needs her help to escape to the surface. But they can only get out if they retrieve the ‘gun that makes holes’ (i. e., the Portal Device), which has been lost somewhere in the abandoned and overgrown facility.

Within the first few minutes of gameplay, Portal 2 is already unlike its predecessor. Where the first game was full of white walls and clean surfaces and an extreme minimalism which I found quite interesting, Portal 2 has turned that concept on its head. The clean, Spartan facility has been wrecked. There are vines and plants and smashed machinery everywhere. Although many of the testing chambers, and an unnamed AI (not GLaDOS), remain functional after what the AI believes has been ‘the apocalypse’, there is hardly a room which has not been ravaged by destruction or partially reclaimed by nature. The addition of new characters, namely Wheatley and the AI, is quite jarring, if you’re used to the loneliness and long silences of the first game. Even many of the textures and sound design from the original Portal have been completely changed. But, I was willing to roll with it. After all, sequels can’t always be quite as good as the first game. And aesthetics often change between games in any series.

And if that was where it had stayed, with the addition of new, talkative characters and a slight change in aesthetics, I would have been fine with that. It was rather unfortunate, therefore, when Wheatley (again, SPOILERS!!!) decided to take control of the facility, implant GLaDOS’s (still living) artificial mind into a child’s science project potato battery, and dump us both down a 4,000 foot shaft into the real heart of Aperture Laboratories.

Beneath the Enrichment Center, the modern underground testing and sciencing facilities of Aperture Laboratories, there lies an abandoned salt mine, chock full of dark and disturbing secrets. In the first Portal game, it is not made clear why exactly human subjects are being handed portal guns and shoved out into the testing chambers. My dad’s rather interesting theory, that they were being trained to use the gun in various situations so that they could become some kind of soldiers or operatives for Aperture, was disproved in the first game when it turned out (SPOILERS) that the cake really is a lie, and the only thing waiting for test subjects at the end of the testing track was certain fiery death. Portal 2 confirms my suspicions that this is all a case of ‘gratuitous sciencing’, or the ‘we do what we must because we can’ mentality.

The salt mine beneath the Enrichment Center hides the abandoned and condemned facilities of the Aperture Science Innovators, and the companies later incarnations, which have been blocked off and hidden for years. The company was founded, as far as I can tell, in the early-to-mid 1940s by enterprising businessman and inventor Cave Johnson, and used to recruit human test subjects, who were subjected to all kinds of disturbing and horrible experiments in the name of ‘science’ and ‘progress’, as well as used to test Cave’s promising invention, the Aperture Science Quantum Tunneling Device, which bears an interesting resemblance to the more streamlined Portal Device of later years. As you explore this area of the game, Cave’s cheerful, callous indifference regarding human life becomes shockingly apparent. As you come across old company policy signs and listen to the prerecorded messages of Cave Johnson himself, little pieces and bits of information fall together into a perfect picture of Aperture Science in the ‘old days’. The storytelling of this section of the game is absolutely brilliant.

However, I’m not really sure I’m comfortable with the story that Valve decided to tell.

In fact, I know I’m not.

“Aria!” you are probably saying, “It’s okay. It’s just a game. It’s just something somebody made up.” Yeah. It is just a game. But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t some historical background to all this. And that’s what makes it so disturbing.

I was first introduced to the Portal games by a YouTube video, a theory about the Companion Cube. The Cube, which, despite being a silent, inanimate object, has become “one of the most popular characters in the gaming community”, and during the first part of this video, the creator was exploring why this is, why people adore the silent, heart-covered Cube so much. He talked about scientific and psychological testing in the 1950s, back when “science was still interesting because there were no limits on human testing”, and when people had been put into extreme isolation for days on end, just to see what would happen. The creator of the video argued that because Chell (and, by extention, the player) are in such extreme isolation during the first game, as soon as they are handed a little plastic box with a couple of hearts on it and told to look after it, they develop an emotional attachment to the Cube, and come to see it as a friend in their loneliness. I’m not going to rehash the whole video here. What I wanted to show you was that little throwaway line, the historical precident: Back in the 1950s when science was still interesting because there were no limits on human testing…

And that’s the little bit of information I had bouncing around in my brain when I began to explore the Aperture Science Innovators facilities. And that’s the little bit of information that made all, or most of, the difference.

Because something like that could have really happened.

I didn’t sleep very well after that. I wandered around feeling disturbed and empty and depressed. I put the game away and told myself I would never, never, never play it again. The dark, delightful humor of the first game had been taken and destroyed, and replaced by nothing but darkness.

I did finish the game, later on. Because I’m stubborn like that, I guess. But I was, quite frankly, disappointed with the climax and final battle. The game didn’t have that Portal flavor anymore. It had become just another sequel, the plot grasping at straws to keep hanging on a little bit longer, a wordy fight between GLaDOS and Wheatley to explain stuff quickly and without showing it (telling, not showing, as the author in me would admonish), the wordy explanation tacked on afterwards. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the end of the game itself, the humor of the singing turrets, exhilarating rise in the elevator into an abandoned aboveground shed in the middle of nowhere, and my reunion with my dear companion cube (I know why I love it now, though, so maybe that defeats my emotional response a bit). Even the “SPAAAACE!!!!” part had me giggling. But it felt as if, after their brilliant display of disturbing storytelling in the middle of the game, the creators of the game run out of ideas, or at least ideas that make slightly more sense than shooting a portal at the moon.

I know there are people who love-love-love this game, and I can see why. But it just wasn’t for me. I still love Portal, and I can understand and (kind of) appreciate your extra-dark humor in hindsight, Portal 2, but that doesn’t mean I’ll play you ever again.


Final Rating

Plot, technical development, storytelling: 4 out of 5 stars

“I’m in SPAAAAACE!!! But work on your plot, please.”

Personal reactions: 2 out of 5 stars

“I hate science now. Thanks, Cave Johnson.”

ESRB says: +10 for Fantasy Violence, Mild Language

Really??? I actually had to look that up, because I didn’t know. I assumed it was T for Teen, but it’s rated LOWER than the first game??????? (It is true about the mild language, by the way. Cave Johnson, GLaDOS, you don’t have to cuss to get your point across. GLaDOS, you didn’t cuss in the first game, so why are you doing it now?)

I say: I would definitely kick it up a notch, to T for Teen at least, or even M for disturbing themes. I wonder how many young kids have played this. Am I the only person who was at all disturbed by this game, even temporarily? Anyway, use your discernment. It probably depends on the maturity of the player, but I would say more like +16, to be honest…


Here is digital cake. 🎂 🎂 🎂

Enjoy.

Also, I happen to have an Instagram account, now! If you’d like to check it out, just swing by http://www.instagram.com/ariaemaher/ And if you like Portal stuff, I have a Portal-themed painting I did that you can check out over there…

🙂

Wednesday with Words: Poetry

One of the history books I’m reading for school is John Adams by David McCullough. It is a very interesting book, giving a great deal of insight into the life of John Adams, mostly through the many letters he wrote to his wife and children and friends while he was away helping shape the future of America, be it in the Philadelphia convention or as an underpaid ambassador to France. This is a quote from one of those letters, written to his son John Quincy, giving him some good general advice:

john-adams


On my reading list this week:

Anne of Ingleside by L. M. Montgomery: As I said in the last Wednesday with Words post, I’ve been working my way steadily through the Anne of Green Gables books, and suddenly it seems I’ve come to the last one! This link goes to the beautiful Sourcebooks Fire paperback edition, which I absolutely love. My mom has the whole series in these editions on a shelf downstairs, and they are so pretty!

Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens: Yes, I am still reading this. We have an audiobook edition, and I downloaded it onto my iPod, but my iPod seems to be rather finicky (it’s fairly old), and on chapter 63 of 70 it started glitching out, and wouldn’t let me listen to the rest, so… I had to get a paperback copy from the library. I’ve got about five chapters left. It’s just so long!


Wednesdays with Words is hosted by ladydusk.

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One hundred and thirty people (!) have downloaded my historical fiction short story ‘Miss’ from InstaFreebie.com as of today! You can check it out, and get a free copy, here.

Chapter 2 of The Tangle is Live on Channillo!

Hello, everybody! I know, I am super late in posting this (should have done it on Saturday), so I hope you’ll forgive me. But I thought I should just let everyone know that, yes, Chapter 2 of The Tangle is live on Channillo.com! You can check it out here. Also, tomorrow is the last day you can use the code CHAN99 at checkout to get your first month of any Channillo membership for only 99 cents. Head over to www.channillo.com/memberships to check out this offer.


I am super excited to let you know that my historical fiction short story ‘Miss’ has amassed over 120 downloads on InstaFreebie! You can grab a copy, in your preferred eBook format, here.

If you like the new look of my site, please let me know! Personally, I think it’s a bit easier to read now, and a bit prettier, but let me know what you think. 🙂

Wednesday with Words: The Sweetest Days

Hello, all! I know it’s been a while since my last Wednesday with Words, but I wanted to get back in the habit, as it were, so what better time to start then during a break week from school? I’ve been reading a lot this week, but mostly I’ve been trying to work on the Anne of Green Gables series. I’ve never read all of the books before, but now I’m on the fourth one (Anne of Windy Poplars), so what better quote to share today than one from this delightful series?

anne-of-avonlea


On my reading list this week:

The Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier: My mom got this for me for Valentines day (it’s a family tradition to get ‘books and chocolate’ for Valentines. We also another of his books, Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes, which mom had been reading aloud to us during lunch time.

Onward by Russell Moore: My dad got this a year or so ago (I think???) for Christmas. At that time, I did skim through it, but I decided to make a more careful read through this time around. 🙂


Wednesday with Words is hosted by ladydusk.

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Guess what? My free historical fiction short story, ‘Miss’, has over 100 downloads on InstaFreebie! You can click here to check it out and download a copy.

Chapter 1 of The Tangle is Live!

the-tangleHey, everybody! As some of you may know, I’m publishing my latest work, a paranormal/horror novel called The Tangle, on Channillo.com, which is a site for serial literature. A new chapter will be published every two weeks.

It’s absolutely amazing to be able to inform you that Chapter 1 of the book is now live on Channillo! You can check it out here, and, if you like, add The Tangle to your reading list on Goodreads here.

Just so you know, Channillo.com is having a special on all their subscription packages. Through the end of February, you can get the first month of any plan for just 99 cents. H Head over to http://www.channillo.com/memberships/ to check it out, and enter the code CHAN99 at checkout to get your first month of any plan for just 99 cents. You can subscribe to my series and catch Chapter 1, and check out some of the other stuff on there. There are a ton of other authors using this platform, and you might just find something super cool to enjoy! #Not$ponsoredinAnyWay #JustWantedToTellUCauseItsCool


By the way, did you know that you can now add your name to my email list to receive news and updates delivered right to your inbox? Click here to sign up! Emails will be infrequent, so you don’t have to worry about clutter in your inbox.

If you want to sample some of my work for free, grab an eBook copy of my historical fiction short story ‘Miss’ right here. Enjoy! 🙂