Wednesday With Words: Boots for Birds

I am still gradually working my way through a massive brick-like book containing all of Emily Dickinson’s 1,700+ poems, and while they are all beautiful and very expressive, every once in a while I’ll come across one that really catches my eye. This particular selection has been languishing in my commonplace book for a while now, and I thought I’d finally get around to posting it today. It’s not super profound or thought provoking; it’s just an interesting little word picture that made me smile.

Boots for Birds


On my reading list this week:


Thanks for reading this week’s Wednesday with Words! Are you reading anything interesting this week? Have any book recommendations? Let’s chat in the comments!

See you again soon.

🙂

Movie Review: The Incredibles 2

Incredibles 2

Yet another animated sequel that fails to live up to the original.


Let me tell you a little secret: I’m really not a huge fan of sequels, especially for animated kids movies. Even Pixar sequels let me down. In my opinion, the only ones to get it completely right were the Toy Story sequels, which are even better than the original movie. But from the train wreck that was Cars 2 to the off-the-wall prequel Monster’s University to the honestly-kinda-boring-and-annoying Finding Dory, the best I’ve really been able to say about Pixar’s other sequels is that they’re not terrible. Maybe I’m nostalgic, or maybe I’m thinking to hard about films that are made and marketed for kids, but it really doesn’t seem like Pixar’s sequels have been living up to the quality of the original films.

I love The Incredibles. Even though it is now fourteen years old, it still holds up as a beautiful piece of animation, writing, and entertainment. It really didn’t need a sequel (and neither did Finding Nemo, for that matter. Or Cars. Or Monsters Inc.) It stood perfectly well on its own. It never felt forced to be funny or forced to be dramatic and intense. Even though it dealt with some dark ideas (there’s one particular scene where Elasta Girl tells her kids that these villains they’re dealing with aren’t like the ones on Saturday morning cartoons: they will shoot to kill) it’s still a kid’s movie, and a good kid’s movie. It never becomes goofy or dumbed down because ‘maybe the kids won’t get it’.

Unfortunately, a lot of the things the original Incredibles did right are done totally wrong by the sequel. I expected it to be set at least several years after the events of the first film, but it’s actually an immediate sequel that starts off about five minutes after the end of the first movie. This doesn’t automatically mean it’s bad, but it seemed like a very odd choice. There are so many stories that could be told with these awesome characters. Honestly, we didn’t need to see the outcome of the battle with the Underminer. While it wasn’t stated explicitly at the end of the first movie, it was definitely implied that the Incredibles were up to the task of defeating him, and it was a kind of boring way to start off a kind of boring movie.

While there are definitely laugh out loud moments in The Incredibles 2, that’s pretty much all there is. There was none of the seriousness or heart of the first film, just joke after joke after joke, to the point that it felt more like a Dreamworks sequel than a Pixar film. A lot of the conflict between characters was formulaic, to the point that I could predict which characters were going to have some kind of falling out with each other. The big reveal of the main villain is also very heavily foreshadowed and easy to predict. Figuring out who the villain is isn’t always a bad thing, but in this case the fact that I’d figured it out seemed more due to lazy writing than to any intelligence on my part. The whole thing felt disjointed, and character growth, while present, was stunted and choppy at best, and lazily written at worst.

The Incredibles 2 definitely failed to live up to its predecessor. While it’s not a bad movie, and all of the animation, voice work, and music is extremely well done, it lacks heart and fails to deliver any kind of emotional punch; just a few empty laughs with our old favorite characters, and a whole lot of formulaic, unnecessary conflict.


Final Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars

“I’m kinda over sequels at this point.”


Thanks for reading my review of The Incredibles 2! Have you seen the film yet? Did you like it, or did you think it was another unnecessary Pixar sequel? Let’s chat in the comments!

See you again soon.

🙂

Movie Review: Black Panther

Black Panther

A groundbreaking superhero romp with all the action, humor, and heart you’d expect from a Marvel film.


SPOILER WARNING: There are a few major spoilers ahead in this review, as I wanted to talk about some character arcs and plot points as in depth as possible. If you haven’t seen the film and don’t want spoilers, please go watch it before reading this review! 


I have to admit, I had my doubts about this film. When something gets this much hype, when people are calling it the best Marvel film ever made (or maybe even the best film ever made) and when it carried a 100% score on Rotten Tomatoes, if only for a little while, that’s an awful lot to live up to. But I understood the hype, and I hoped that this film would live up to most of it, because here’s the thing: Besides Angie Thomas’s fabulous novel, The Hate U Give, I cannot remember the last book I read or movie I watched that had a black protagonist, much less an almost entirely black cast. And I’m certainly not saying that it’s bad to have a white protagonist; not at all. But there are so many awesome white protagonists and not nearly enough awesome black protagonists, especially not in more mainstream media, and so I totally understand the hype for this movie, and I was hoping against hope that people weren’t exaggerating, and that Black Panther would be a genuinely good film.

Marvel took a risk with this film, because many big studios in Hollywood won’t make films with POC or female leads, as they think those films won’t make enough money at the box office. But, obviously, that risk paid off: as of this writing, Black Panther has earned over $404 million dollars worldwide, breaking multiple box office records, including becoming the highest grossing film with a predominantly black cast ever.

The numbers don’t lie. But what about the reviews? I personally try not to judge films off of popularity, or how much money they make, or other peoples opinions. And so I was very eager to see this film for myself and find out whether or not all the hype was warranted.

So let’s dive into the review.

First of all, Black Panther is visually stunning. Much of the film takes place in the fictional African country of Wakanda, and the landscapes shown in the film are gorgeous and utterly unlike anything I’ve ever seen onscreen. We all know the standard fantasy/sci-fi locations, which have all been done and done to death: the forest, the fields, the mountains, the futuristic city. But Black Panther‘s African-inspired fantasy/sci-fi world breaths new life into these tired settings, by transporting us straight into Africa itself. I’ve seen so much sci-fi and fantasy set in America or Europe, or American-like and Europe-like worlds, and it is so refreshing to see what a high-tech, futuristic African city would look like, or to watch T’Challa, the Black Panther himself, fight his rival for the right to the throne on a sheer rock ledge beneath a waterfall, while his people cheer him on.

It was endlessly cool to see an entire fictional culture inspired by Africa on the big screen. From the colors and cut of the clothes to the design of the city and the flying ships that transport T’Challa and his friends, to the technology created by T’Challa’s genius sister Shuri, everything just felt so fresh and new and exciting and, yes, groundbreaking.

In another reversal of what you so often see in mainstream media, the only white characters in the film are villainous Ulysses Klaw (played by Andy Serkis) and the bumbling General Ross (played by Martin Freeman), who acts as a foil to the main characters. I found myself laughing right along with T’Challa and co. at Ross’s total confusion in the face of this highly advanced but hidden African society.

But the film itself, the story, the characters, the ideas; are they any good? This film has been touted as such a huge leap towards diversity in storytelling, and especially in big budget films, and that is certainly the case. But does Black Panther also stand on its own merits?

I would have to say yes. Well it may not be the best film ever made, Black Panther gets a lot of things right when it comes to storytelling, plot, action, and character development. It is actually one of the few Marvel films to have a well developed villain: Erik Killmonger, an exile and heir to the Wakandan throne who returns to his country to claim his rights and remove T’Challa from power. Erik’s father had left Wakanda to live in America with his son, but when he turned out to be a traitor, he was killed, leaving Erik all alone with only the tales his father had told him of his native country. When Erik returns to claim the throne, he brings with him an agenda: he resents how Wakanda has hidden their strength for so long, and wants the country to use its wealth and military might to stop the oppression of black people all over the world, by force.

While Killmonger brings up valid points about oppression and the need for action, I appreciate that the filmmakers do show his viewpoint —that violence can and should be used to end oppression— to be wrong, and that T’Challa decides in the end to use the wealth and strength of his country to help others peacefully. Sometimes, I almost found myself cheering for Killmonger, because the filmmakers do such a good job of developing him into a well rounded, flawed-but-nevertheless-admirable human being. He’s such a well developed character, and it’s almost a shame that T’Challa isn’t quite as well developed in the film. He is still a good hero, but I wish the filmmakers had spent just a little more time on developing a better story arc for him.

The other major characters in this film —namely Shuri, T’Challa’s sister, Nakia, T’Challa’s love interest, and Okoye, the general of an all-female group of Wakandan warriors— are all brilliantly played and fantastically developed characters. I love Shuri and T’Challa’s sibling relationship; it’s super authentic and very funny, as Shuri teases and makes fun of her brother even as she’s helping him catch the thieving Klaw. Nakia also gets tons of moments in the spotlight, not just as T’Challa’s love interest (although they are adorable and very, very shipable ❤ ) but also as a magnificent warrior, and a kindhearted, caring woman who’s greatest wish is to help those less fortunate than herself.

The story itself is very coherent and well plotted, and could pretty much stand on its own even if you’ve never seen a Marvel movie, which is nice after such a long line of sequels and sequels of sequels. The visual effects and action scenes are well done, as is all of the acting, and I just really enjoyed this film. It ranks very high on my personal list of ‘best Marvel films’. It just seemed to have a bit more heart than some more recent Marvel flicks, specifically Thor: Ragnarok, which was a very funny and well made film, but somehow seemed to lack any real emotional depth. Is Black Panther somehow going to fix every racial or social problem ever, as some people seem to think? Probably not, but it’s definitely a step in the right direction.


Final Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

“Wakanda forever!”


Heyo! I hope you enjoyed my review of Black Panther. Have you seen the film yet? Did you enjoy it? What do you think of T’Challa’s character development (or lack thereof?) I’m curious! Let me know in the comments.

See you again soon!

🙂

Introducing: The Sound Architect!

If you read yesterday’s post, you probably know that I hinted about a super cool announcement that I would be posting today. Well, here it is:

My brother just released his first album of electronic music!

That’s right. My brother is now officially an electronic music artist, and you can currently get his first album, Junction 232, on CDbaby.com. Within the next week, it should also be available on Amazon, iTunes, and wherever you get your MP3s. If you like funky electronic music, you should definitely give this album a listen! It’s super awesome. Check out the cover and track list below:

Junction 232 Promotional Graphic

Learn more and buy the album on CDBaby!


Thanks for reading today’s post! I hope you enjoy my brother’s new music. What’s your favorite type of music? I like electronic, pop, movie soundtracks, and whatever random genre Twenty One Pilots is supposed to be (Ukulele-screamo? Emo-rap-piano-alternative-something with drums? Just plain amazing music??? IDK) Anyway, let me know your favorite music genres in the comments below!

See you again soon.

🙂

Beautiful People #27 ~ August Edition

Hey, everyone! Guess what? It’s time for another Beautiful People post! This awesome meme is hosted by Cait @ Paper Fury and Sky @ Further Up and Further In. These are some of my favorite posts to do on the blog, so I hope you enjoy today’s. 🙂


What is the Beautiful People meme?

From the Beautiful People FAQ on Paper Fury:

Beautiful People is for writers. Every month, we post a list of 10 questions for you to answer about your characters. It’s designed to help you get to know your characters – their quirks, their personality, their flaws, and who they are.


DISCLAIMER: I cannot guarantee that everything here is or will be canon in the future. I have spent a fair amount of time developing these characters, but some stuff is still unclear in my own mind, so I will try to answer the questions as best I can.

Also, the character I’ll be using for today’s post is from a super-secret project that I have yet to officially announce, so some details about the characters and plot will have to remain secret, for now…

Enjoy the post!


The Character

chalis007-189517

Mae Ki-Nari from my super secret sci-fi project. Photo by 胡 卓亨 on Unsplash

The Question

1.What are they addicted to/can’t live without?

Mae loves listening to music. It helps her focus and drown out the crazy world around her. She also likes to have a piece of technology by her side at all times. She’d be lost without her laptop or phone!

2. Name 3 positive and 3 negative qualities about your character.

Positive: She’s smart, straightforward, and very persistent. She likes to see things through to the end.

Negative: She is very snarky and sarcastic, she doesn’t relate well to people, and she tends to completely overthink everything.

3. Are they holding onto something they should get rid of?

She’s definitely holding on to her resentment (and also her idealism) of her past life and her fear of the future.

4. If 10 is completely organized and 1 is completely messy, where do they fall on the scale?

I think Mae would probably fall somewhere in the middle, maybe somewhere around 5 or 6. She doesn’t actually try to be super organized, but she owns so little that her living space is rarely ever messy. Most of her life is online, so that’s where she spends the bulk of her time. There’s not a lot in the real world for her to mess up or disorganize.

5. What most frustrates them about the world they live in?

Mae hates surveillance. She’s lived for most of her life in a place where you can never be sure if you’re being watched or not. She wants online information to be free and uncensored, and she wants to be free herself from always looking over her shoulder to make sure no one’s watching.

6. How would they dress for a night out? How would they dress for a night in?

For a night out, Mae would probably dress up as little as possible. She doesn’t like going out anyway. Maybe she would put on a dress (if she owned one) and brush her hair a bit, but that would probably be all. Unless she was going out with that special somebody, and then she would be looking up makeup tutorials online and she might actually care about if her shoes match her outfit, and get really stressed out about how she looks.

For a night in, it would be just whatever she was wearing; probably old jean shorts and a t-shirt from the secondhand store. She literally does not care about anything most of the time. 😂

7. How many shoes do they own, and what kind?

I would hazard a guess that she owns like one pair of sneakers, and that’s it. Maybe some boots too, but even that is probably stretching it.

8. Do they have any pets? What pet do they WISH they had?

Mae has never owned a pet in her life, and she probably never will. If she had to own a pet, though, she’d probably get a cat.

9. Is there something or someone that they resent? Why and what happened?

Mae resents a lot of people. It’s hard to really explain why and what happened without spoiling some of the story, but she definitely does resent both her parents. She never really had a good childhood.

10. What’s usually in their fridge or pantry?

Soda, energy drinks, synthetic food that provides all her daily vitamin and protein needs. She’s not a fan of ‘real’ (non-processed) food.


Thanks so much for reading this month’s Beautiful People post! I hope you enjoyed it, and I can’t wait to share more of this story with you as soon as possible. Right now, I’m in the middle of rewriting a bunch of it (I just got an amazing new idea today!) but hopefully I’ll be publishing the first book sometime next year.

Be sure to check out Cait’s original post, where you’ll find links to other writers who have done this meme, as well as the list of questions and a place to link up your own Beautiful People post.

Once again, Beautiful People is hosted by the amazing Cait and Sky.

Beautiful People

Unpopular Opinions: The Thirteenth Doctor

On Sunday, the 16th of July, 2017, the BBC announced their pick for the new Doctor on Doctor Who. One of the longest running sci-fi shows in history, Doctor Who has been broadcasted for over 50 years. In all those years the main character of the series, the Doctor — a time-traveling, double-hearted, slightly mad alien Time Lord from the planet Gallifrey, who can regenerate into a new body whenever he is about to die— has always been portrayed as male. Whether sporting a bow tie or a trench-coat, a multicolored scarf or a fez, whether carrying a celery stalk or a supply of jelly babies, the Doctor has always, always regenerated into a man.

Not so now.

Actress Jodie Whittaker was just announced as the new star of Doctor Who. She will be taking over the role from Peter Capaldi, the Twelth Doctor. “I want to tell the fans not to be scared by my gender,” she says, “Because this is a really exciting time and Doctor Who represents everything that’s exciting about change. This is only a new, different one, not a fearful one.”


I was honestly not quite sure what to think when I heard that a woman would be taking over as the Doctor. On the one hand, according to show canon, a Time Lord can technically regenerate into a person of the opposite gender. At the moment, the world is charged with massive conversations about diversity and equality and feminism and equal representation in the media. This would appear to be the perfect answer to that conversation: the introduction of a woman into a role that has always been played by men. At least, many people would say so.

I have nothing against diversity, as far as it goes (i.e. not making every character in your story white and male). But there is something about this contemporary thrust for ‘diversity’ in the media that feels extraordinarily off. As a writer myself, a creator of characters, I have come to understand that if you force a character to be something that they are not, it can wreck the entire story. Trying to force two characters into a romantic relationship; trying to force a character to feel happy in a situation where they would, in fact, be resentful; trying to force a male character to be female, and vise versa… these things will never work as well as leaving the character alone to be who they are in the first place.

Characters are funny creatures. The best of them are like people, fully formed personalities that you uncover bit by bit, like getting to know somebody in real life. When you force them to be something they are not, you destroy that illusion of reality. You have hijacked a character, a story even, for your own purposes. Stories evolve and grow and change naturally as you write and discover what exactly they are about. They are not meant to be manipulated into saying something else.

The BBC’s decision to cast a woman as the Doctor feels, to me anyway, like forced diversity, the manipulation of a story into conveying a message. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not against women having leading roles in television or movies. I don’t think women should be disrespected, or paid less than men for doing the same amount of work, or forced to prove themselves to be just as good as men, because somehow that is a measuring stick for this sort of thing. But there is no one size fits all technique when it comes to diversity. Doctor Who may play by a very esoteric set of rules, but the show’s own lore is fairly contradictory on the point of sex-changing regeneration, and there are a few other objections I can raise to the casting of a female Doctor.

But lets take a step back for a second and really look at this show. It’s not as if Doctor Who isn’t diverse or doesn’t portray strong female characters. Some people seem to forget that the Doctor’s female companions, at least in the reboot, aren’t poor, damsel-in-distress types. Martha and Donna are probably some of the strongest characters in the show. Rose, even though she gets a lot of flack for some reason or other, is creative and brilliant and so, so strong in times of hopelessness. Some people also seem to forget that the female companions of the Doctor are not always there to be love interests. Some people forget that the Doctor had rich platonic relationships with not only Martha, but Donna, Amy, and Clara as well; four out of the five female companions in the reboot (I can’t yet count Bill, as I haven’t seen any of her episodes, but I gather that she isn’t a love interest either.)

Are we out to destroy all shows and books and films with male leads? Have men suddenly become evil, or alien; nonhuman? Look me in the face and tell me that this outlook, rampant in our culture even if not expressed in so many words, is not sexist. Sexism can go both ways, and right now many people are extremely angry at men for being men. Isn’t that exactly what they accuse men of being; angry at women for being women? Aren’t we being slightly hypocritical here?

The dynamic of the Doctor — the mad man in the blue box— and his companions, both male and female, platonic and romantic, his friends and his family, his wife (don’t you forget River), his relationships with the people he meets on his journeys… you could say that it is these dynamics that make the show itself. And this is where I say something that many of you will not like: men and women are different. They are treated differently, because in some situations they have different roles. They act differently. We like to plaster over these differences in the name of ‘equality’, but all it does is cause confusion. But gender, whether we like it or not, is intrinsically tied to personality, to who we are as people, to what we do and how we act. Women will always act in certain ways, see the world in certain ways, be different people than men.

And by changing the Doctor into a woman, the BBC will have changed him into a different person entirely.

Character relationships will break down. Certain dynamics will no longer be possible. The Doctor will be a completely different character. No writer can change that. Or they might try to force it, and run the risk of ruining things entirely. The show will change, and probably not for the better. Change is often good. Variety is the spice of life. But you cannot change the way the world works, no matter how much you try, and I would hazard a small speculation that this change will not do the world longest running sci-fi show any good. In fact, it may doom Doctor Who in the end. The writers will end up trying to push a message so prominent in our culture today: that no one is bound by truth, that you can be absolutely anyone, literally, regardless of gender. And, unfortunately, this message is just not true.


Philosophical arguments aside (for the most part), the show’s own lore seems to contradict itself on several points when it comes to sex-changing regeneration. Please note that there will be some spoilers ahead for River Song’s story arc, so if you haven’t watched this part of the show yet, please proceed with caution!

Spoilers

When a Time Lord is about to die, they instead regenerate into an entirely new body. This is why there are currently thirteen different ‘versions’ of the Doctor (not counting the War Doctor from the 50th anniversary special), each played by a different actor. Although the Doctor says several times that Time Lords can regenerate into people of the opposite gender, there are also very clear differences between male and female Time Lords. One major difference is that female Time Lords (or is that Time Ladies?) can actually control aspects of how they look when they regenerate. Male Time Lords cannot. This is established both by the Doctor (who complains after various regenerations about the size of his ears, his ‘new teeth’, and, most often, that he’s not a redhead) and the female Time Lord River Song, who can concentrate on a dress size or other feature during regeneration and achieve it in her next form.

For there to be specific differences between male and female Time Lords, there would first have to be such a thing as male and female Time Lords. If you were born male, you would not be able to predict or control the physical characteristics of your regeneration. If you were born female, you could. You might still regenerate into someone of a different height or weight or ethnicity, but these are all physical characteristics. And although the current culture would have us believe otherwise, gender is much, much more than physical characteristics.

So, these two things are not logically consistent. If male and female Time Lords have different traits that set them apart, how can a male Time Lord regenerate into a female one? Has he suddenly crossed over that boundary? Can he suddenly control his regeneration? And the reverse is just as confusing. If a female Time Lord regenerates into a male, does she suddenly lose her ability to control her regeneration? Can she concentrate on becoming male in the first place, or is that just random like it seems to be for a male Time Lord?

I would love to see a black or Asian Doctor, or a Doctor of any ethnicity. In fact, it would be an amazing opportunity for actors of different cultural background to bring something new to the show. But a female Doctor, especially at this particular moment, just feels far too much like a blatantly political decision, not a decision which retains the integrity of the show itself. It might even contradict show canon. And any piece of art, be it a novel or a show or a film, should never be made to force a political opinion. That defeats the purpose.

All of this goes to say that I am not thrilled about the new Doctor. But I think I’ll give her a chance. Who knows? Maybe something amazing will happen. I have only one request: that instead of turning this into an opportunity to rant and hate on men or women, we instead judge the character not by their gender or ethnicity, but by their portrayal. Women should not be inserted into the media just because they are women. They should be portrayed because they are people, and a legitimate part of humanity. If the writers of Doctor Who can do that with a female Doctor, and not lose sight of the original message of the show itself, then they will have won.



Thanks for reading this unpopular opinion! What are your thoughts about the new Doctor? Are you excited, or nervous? Do you think that Jodie Whittaker is a good choice for a female Doctor? Let’s talk in the comments below.

See you again next time!

🙂


The Thirteenth Doctor Edited

30 Day Drawing Challenge: Day 28

Day 28: Draw an Elf.

Okay, okay. So he’s not technically an elf. He’s a Hylian, or whatever. But, in my defense, he does have pointy ears. Anyway, I’m looking forward to (hopefully) procuring a copy of The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess and finally getting to play it. So, in honor of that hope, I have drawn Link, the Hero of Time and Light and whatnot. He was drawn with inking pens and colored with Sharpie markers.

30ddc-day-28

See everyone tomorrow for Day 29!

30 Day Drawing Challenge: Day 27

Day 27: Draw a Robot.

Wow. It’s only three days until this drawing challenge is over! I can hardly believe it. I really hope you guys have enjoyed my drawings, and I hope you’ll enjoy this one as well.

So, today my brothers were watching Pixar’s WALL-E, for probably the eight thousandth time. I was wondering what to draw (I’m not that great at drawing robots anyway) and one of my brothers begged me to draw WALL-E. I know it says to draw ‘a robot’, but I put EVE in there anyway, mostly because I was trying to fill space on the page. Anyway, this drawing was done with an inking marker, inking pens and colored with Prismacolor pencil crayons.

30ddc-day-27

See you all tomorrow for the 28th Day of my Drawing Challenge! We are almost done! Yay! 😀

And, don’t forget to join 322 other awesome people and enter my Goodreads giveaway for Behind Her Mask was Death. There’s only three days left to enter, so get your name in while you can! (Once again, shameless promotion is shameless…)