Monday, April 30, 2012

Things That Are Awesome

I want to wear this shirt everywhere. Found it wandering around Kohl's this weekend! I love THE PRINCESS BRIDE.

What is something you'd like to see on a shirt? Leave a comment!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Poetry: Fine Arts Major

He’s still,
An island in a river of meandering
flesh that drifts from
point to pointlessness,

A bitter flood of
the mundane
digging deeper
into the rut of

of life cycles
forged by bread-winning
and role modeling,
stage playing for children,

picket fences painted white
only on one side
Because it’s the outside that matters.

He’s still,
Watching the canyon
of unhappy, misspent
lives yawn wider

and wider still,
absorbing more of the
whose young minds were filled with
dollar signs and

thoughts that they would succeed,
shown only that painted side of the fence;
Now they find the groove
is a rut

because everyone followed the
dream of marketability, and the wave
left them at the bottom of the tide pool.

He’s still,
the successfully shut out
writhe around him, fish
on the shore of a river that rushed
finance over love,
career over dream,
and they flounder, gasping in the
confines of cubicles and
clerical jobs

Wailing against the wasted years
of  computer scienceand
business classes that back
the useless paper in their hands,

against community service that
someone did better, someone
did more.

He’s still,
as those who cracked their heads
on the bottle neck of popular
careers wedge themselves

into the muck of their chosen fields,
wishing all the while they could go back
when they wanted to sing
or act, or dance, and someone had told them
that wasn’t an economically viable dream

Be a doctor or banker, be
a moneymaker.
And ignorant, they had listened
told themselves   

that this was what they wanted
realistic income – stability
over satisfaction.

He’s still,
and he smiles,
the pencil in his hand and
sketchbook on his lap

as he draws the world around him
in shades of gray.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Sucker Punch: A Movie with Writing Tips?

I finally watched Sucker Punch this weekend. (I know, I’m behind the times.) Besides the entertainment of the crazy genre mash-up and trying to keep up with not two, but three realities—I’m pretty sure there was three—the end had a good point. I don’t mean “know your weapons and use them” bit. That’s a good thing to do. Using your imagination is awesome, of course. Everyone should use their brain. No, the part that stuck in my head was “know whose story it is”.

Sounds so simple, doesn’t it? Yet, how many times do we as artists lose track of that simple idea? I know I’ve done it. I’ve written scenes that I loved only to have to cut them because they detracted from my main character. I’ve come to abrupt halts in projects because the character I thought was the main character suddenly wasn’t.

To get myself back on track, I ask myself where I veered off course. In some places, it’s a matter of tweaking the wording. In others, it’s cut and rewrite. And in a few, I have to ask myself, who am I really writing about? Is it the brooding chimney sweep who just lost everything he held dear, or is it the cheerful thief who tumbled down his client’s chimney? Once I figure that out, I can pick up my weapons and use them.
How do you deal with a situation like this?  Leave a comment!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Beautiful Dying: Why I Love Certain (Maybe) Doomed Characters

I love Lia Habel’s zombies in DEARLY, DEPARTED. I also love Jem Carstairs in Cassandra Clare’s INFERNAL DEVICES series. Both the zombies and Jem know they’re living on borrowed time, but they make the best of it.

(If you haven’t read these, you might want to look away now. I’m keeping it as spoiler-free as I can, but the topic makes me reveal things you might not want to know beforehand.)

The zombies, having overcome the psychological torment that they’re already dead, keep going, keep fighting to help others and to find a way to stop their disease from claiming more of the living. They don’t bemoan their fate. Sure they’re not happy about it, but they accept it. And having done that, they put their remaining time into a goal.

Jem. Lovely, talented, mortally poisoned, Jem. He heads toward his inevitable premature demise with grace and kindness toward others. When his affliction overwhelms him, he takes his anger and frustrations out on his violin strings. He’s caring and supportive of others, even in his weakest moments, even when the other person’s actions hurt him.

The thing about characters like these that makes me love them so much is they strive to live in the time they have. Even when they fall into despair, they find a way to pull out of it. They give me perspective on my own petty issues, make me grateful for what I have, and the strength of character and will they show encourages me. They shame me, inspire me to work for what I want, and remind me to be better because no one really knows how much time they have.

And the authors who created these beautiful dying characters have utterly hooked me. Because I’m still waiting, still hoping for miracles. (I'm ever the optimistic.) Expecting my heart to be broken and to burst with joy at the same time. Staring at Shrodinger’s cat-concealing box and believing in two possible paths. That’s some powerful anticipation.

There are many reasons to love both Habel’s zombies and Clare’s Jem, but those are topics for another post.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Ramblings of a Casual Gamer: Final Fantasy and Why I Don’t Love the Latest Ones

In a previous post, I talked about my late-found love of video games and how Final Fantasy VII was my entry into the gamer world. Now, I want to talk about the franchise and why so many fans are pulling their hair out.

Many of us are hoping against hope that FF: Versus XIII will revive the joy we felt playing the older games. There’s a lot of talk about how the new games have lost their Final Fantasy feel—not that they’re exactly bad games, but like the movie FF: Spirits Within, they shouldn’t be called Final Fantasy.

Here’s my deal:

Like a good book, Final Fantasy VII had characters. Real, fleshed-out, past-bearing, issue-having characters that felt real. As I progressed through the game, new tidbits would come out, and there was always another story behind the one I was experiencing. It gave FFVII a depth that allowed me to immerse myself in the world.  Now, others had great characters, too, but some (ahem…XII) the characters fell flat. Honestly, the only one in FFXII that I cared about was Balthier. Vaan could have totally been eaten by a cockatrice and I would have shrugged.

Another thing that I really noticed with FFXII, but may have actually started in X-2, was the failure to make the summons effective. Now, in X-2, you had to fight your former summons, but considering the story of FFX, it sort of made sense. With XII, I found they were mostly pointless. It was harder to get some of the summons than it was to defeat the final boss. That, in my opinion, was a fail. I’m not saying they should all just land at your feet, but harder than the final boss?  

Linear Maps. Ugh. In the early games, you traveled the world. There were mountains to climb, oceans to sail, forests and plains and rivers…you get it. You had a destination, but you didn’t have to follow a line or fast travel directly there. You could roam. You could take the time between destinations to level up, gather items, and earn money for the shops. And there were cities! Buildings to explore, shops to peruse, and usually talking to the people of that town was what led to your next task. For me, FFXIII was the worst one about linear movement. You ran through an area with little discovery, without the excitement of random encounters, and the only pseudo free-roam was on Gran Pulse.

Battle. Okay, Final Fantasy games are turn-based, so those who are button maestros and can hit a sixteen-button combo in two seconds are laughing at me. I can’t. When I have to hit a bunch of buttons, I start freaking out, but that’s a post for another day. The thing is, even though the games were turn-based and had action menus, you still had to think about what you were doing. You had to decide who would attack and who would support, whether to use physical force or magic. And it mattered! In the games with job classes, you had to figure out what was the best balance for the way you wanted to play: heavy on the mages, brute force, a happy medium, etc. In the last three games, I find my eyes glazing over in regular battles. Final Fantasy XII, I could set my characters to attack and wander off to the kitchen to get a drink or snack. Not good. In XIII and currently in XIII-2, the paradigm shifts are the only things that keep me awake. The auto-battle option should NOT exist. It’s lazy and brain-deadening. As for FFXIII-2, the cinematic action tries to spice things up, but for me, it ruins the shiny moments. There’s story going on there! I want to watch that badass cinema scene, not scan my TV trying to find the button I’m supposed to press right… NOW! Put those button sequences in the real battle. That way I have something to do there, and I can watch the cool stuff. 
And dammit, I want relevant summons again.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Poetry: Donors Wanted

Vampires don’t bite;
They syphon with tubes
and needles,

And the blood is
warm as it flows
across your arm through
the surrogate

The magnets claim
needs blood every
three seconds;

And you count
the seconds
(one two three)
As your life is

A fine cabernet
for the undead.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Book or E-book? From the POV of a Casual Tech User

I like technology. Maybe not as much as some people. My newest computer is from 2009, I have exactly 29 apps on my phone that I actually downloaded, and I do not own an iPad. I do, however, own a Kindle Fire. It’s a nifty device. I especially like that fact that I can read my personal documents on it. I’ve read a few books on it, but I’d still rather have the real thing, and here’s why:

Lighting. My Kindle is great indoors and in the shade, but if I happen to be outside or on a long trip in a car, the glare on the glossy screen makes it too difficult to read.

Battery. I sometimes go for days without using my Kindle. When I get it out to read, I often haven’t read long before the low battery warning comes on. Then I’m crawling around trying to find an outlet.

Can’t toss it around. I read all over the place. Sometimes, I’m interrupted (puppies demand play time, fiancĂ© needs attention, mom calls) and I just sit my book wherever…not always in the best spot. If a paper book hits the floor, it’s not going to smash into little pieces.

Can’t use my bookmarks. I made my own special bookmarks, and let’s face it, you have to have a book for it to be worth it.

Sharing. I share books with people who don’t have e-readers and who aren’t tech-savvy.  

Now, here’s the things l do like about my Kindle:

Portability. I read some long, heavy books, and carrying around the entire collection of Robert Jordan’s WHEEL OF TIME series just isn’t happening without a suitcase. Preferably with wheels.

Instant gratification. If I really want to read something now, I can at the touch of a button. Boom! DEARLY, DEPARTED at my fingertips.

Variety. The number of independent and self-pubbed titles available through Amazon widens my choices beyond what a local store might offer. (Note: This can also go into the negative side of the Kindle, as quantity does not equal quality.)

Of course, if I absolutely love a book that I bought on my Kindle, I will buy a physical copy, too. Some things you just have to share!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Poetry: Undefeated

Scales, gleaming, flash
emeralds under a jeweler’s lamp
The dragon shakes his spike-crowned head
Golden mane rustles, the sound of the maiden’s skirt.

Talons black,
puncture the hard earth
Diamonds envy their sharpness.
The red west reflects from his eyes
Fire brilliant gems
Wide, yawning, jaws open
revealing dental daggers.

Steel protrudes from one massive flank
a token of battle waged
Belly encrusted with the spoils of war
Mountainous beast,
a trophy none may claim.