Archive for July, 2012

Bottom Line:

Watch it.

Details:

[Minor spoilers.]

It’s been quite a long time since I’ve done a movie review. It’s also been a while since this movie came out. But I think it’s a great film, so I’m glad to still share my thoughts on it.

So, I didn’t really want to watch this movie when it first came out. I thought it was going to be kind of cheesy and definitely for little kids. It just didn’t seem to appeal to my usual animation loving self, so I didn’t go to the theatre. I didn’t rent it from RedBox. But when I found out it was on Netflix, I decided to give it a try.

The end result? Moderate surprise. Intellectual stimulation. Laugh-out-loud hilarity.

Let’s take that one at a time.

First of all, the moderate surprise. The movie starts out telling you exactly how many times Romeo and Juliet has been told. And how this is not that story. Wow. One point for the home team. I was glad it wasn’t a rehashing of the Shakespearean tale. I mean, granted, yes this is really based on Romeo and Julie, but they take it out of context and apply it to a different kind of character, who lives in a different world, with a different set of rules. Oh, and there’s a happy ending. Thank goodness. (I mean, this is Disney, after all.)

And the intellectual stimulation? Okay, maybe stimulation isn’t the right word, but this movie is smart. As the movie begins, you notice that the human characters that own the warring gardens live at 2B Verona drive. Both mail boxes have 2B written on them, but one of them is crossed out. Ha. Nanette, the frog and Juliet’s best friend, grabs a sock for Juliet to disguise herself with. As she heads down from the clothesline, we see a shirt with a picture of Kermit the Frog on it. Double ha. The laptop is not an Mac (Apple), but a….banana. HAHAHA.

*Ahem*

Lastly, we have the laugh out loud hilarity, as glimpsed above. Above anything else, this movie was funny. My favorite part was when Gnomeo was chatting with the statue of William Shakespeare, who was telling him all about Romeo and Juliet. Gnomeo told him it had a stupid ending and ran off to make sure that he and Juliet could be together. One of my favorite characters was Featherstone. He was so adorable and I loved his accent! The best part was when his legs popped off and Gnomeo was surfing him all the way to the fence gate. And what about the ridiculousness of the entire movie? How there was a toilet in the middle of Montague’s garden, or that the gnomes had to freeze whenever a person looked at them, or even the fact that they raced on lawn mowers?

So, yes, I highly recommend this movie. It’s great for kids – they’ll enjoy the music and the likeability of the characters. But I think parents and adults will like this as well. It’s fun to see how many Easter eggs you can spot!

Have you seen this movie? What did you think of it?

July isn’t out yet, but the next time we talk it’ll be August. This is the fourth check-in and I’ve been able to keep my “perfect round” goal on track for a whole month.

MAIN GOALS

These are the daily goals that won’t change throughout the round.

  1. Exercise for half an hour each day, five days a week. 5/5 I’ve taken advice from some of you guys from last week. Instead of running in five minute increments, I’ve tried stepping it up a few minutes here and there. Instead of running for a total of 15 minutes, I’ve been fluctuating between 18 and 19 minutes. It doesn’t seem like much, but that extra amount has proven to be challenging, which is what I need at this point. Weight loss is on track and I’m happy with my results.
  2. Edit or write every day. 7/7 I’ve been editing all this week. It’s going slowly, but it’s been extremely helpful. I’ve been writing a lot in the last few months, so it’s nice to be editing again.
  3. Read one chapter every day. 7/7 I’ve been reading far more than just a single chapter each day, and it’s been nice to finally get back into reading seriously again.

FLUCTUATING GOALS

These are the goals that will change from week to week.

  1. Edit story #1 in my collection. Done. The overhaul was definitely needed for this and I’m happy with the results. The next goal is to edit story #2 in my collection.
  2. Pick one contest or one magazine I’d like to participate in for this month. Done. I chose an e-magazine to submit one of my better horror stories. I’m going to wait until I get to editing this story before I do anything more with this goal.

ROUND GOALS

I like knowing what I want to accomplish over the course of this round, as that will help determine what my weekly goals will be.

  1. Finish The End, my horror collection. Get some beta readers. This is 100% complete and now just needs to be edited again (and again, and again, and again…).
  2. Begin editing Lifetimes, the novel I’m focusing on right now. 0% I’m waiting until my beta readers get back to me, then I’m jumping into this one head first!
  3. Enter at least one competition or submit at least one article to a magazine. 0% Getting closer to achieving this goal! I have my magazine picked out. Now I need to edit, edit, edit!
  4. Read at least four books this month. 100% I’ve read Marty Boggs and the Curse of Kutkara, as well as all three Noble Intentions book (more about them below).

Extras

These are things that don’t warrant a full post, but are definitely items I’d like you to check out if you’re interested.

  1. My friend just published his third novella in his Noble Intentions series. The books are about an assassin/spy named Jack Noble. I’ve read all three of these books (and I’m named editor on the third one!) and they’re fantastic. They’re fast paced, action-packed novellas. Quick reads and definitely enjoyable. The author likens it to Jack Reacher, John Rain, and Jason Bourne. They’re on sale now at Amazon for only $0.99! He’s even got a Facebook page here.
  2. Remember that surprise I was teasing for a while? I am officially a columnist for Hypable! I wrote my first article about Percy Jackson. My column is bi-monthly, so look for the next one in a couple of weeks – it’s going to be about Teen Wolf.
  3. I have another surprise in the works. If all goes to plan today, then I’ll be able to announce it next week! I’m sure a few of you will really enjoy it.

If you read about my first experience with a mushroom foray, then you’ll know about my odd obsession with mushrooms. I won’t embarrass myself by raving about them again.

Instead, I’ll just tell you all about the second foray I went on!

Our goal this time around was to find some black trumpets. They were supposed to be pretty easy to spot. They looked like trumpets. And were black. But – spoiler alert – we didn’t find any. :(

But the actual act of foraging for ‘shrooms is only half the fun anyway. I love it because it feels like a treasure hunt. I feel like a pioneer or a Native American. It’s nice to just wander around in the woods and get away from society for a while. Plus, I always learn so much on these trips. And I’ve met some really cool and interesting people.

For this specific foray there were two options. The first was the lower (easier) trail. We’d stay pretty close to camp and just walk around the woods nearby. The second one was the upper trail. This involved an apparently death-defying ride in the truck and a harder trail at the top of the hill. Dad and I decided it’d probably be safer to do the lower trail for our first time!

And this time we were smart enough to bring along a basket. Here’s our first find:

These are called Indian Pipes (everyone at the foray was calling them Indian Stovepipes, but it’s the same thing). And guess what? They’re not actually mushrooms! They’re non-chlorophyll  plants. Believe it or not, they’re related to rhododendron, dogwood, and wintergreen. They don’t need sunlight to survive and tend to thrive in moist areas (which is why they’re often mistaken for fungus). These are kind of funny looking ones – most of the ones I’ve found on the internet are pure white.

Next up I found this cute guy. He’s called an Eft.

After looking up some information about him, I found out that an “eft” is a life-stage (considered a juvenile) and that this is actually called a red spotted newt. He’s pretty cute!

The only other mushroom I found was this thing:

Nothing spectacular to me (and definitely not edible), but the president of the society seemed pretty excited about it. Not sure what it is, but I collected it anyway!

Everyone on the lower trail seemed to be finding mini-mushrooms. Everything was so small! There were no black trumpets and nothing else edible. We were kind of disappointed, but I had fun searching anyway. The only other find we had was this cool bright yellow mushroom:

Everyone on the upper trail seemed to come back with gargantuan sized mushrooms. They were kind enough to share with us though.

The next two pictures show the two different types of sulphur shelf, which is edible. This is also called chicken of the woods because – that’s right – it tastes like chicken!

Here’s a picture of the same mushroom all cooked up. I can attest that it tasted like chicken! It has that same plain-ish taste, and the stringy texture of chicken meat. The only difference is, this is a bit more watery (which makes sense!).

Someone also found jack-o-lantern mushrooms. These are actually poisonous (they won’t kill you, but it won’t feel good) and glow in the dark. How cool is that!?

They found a few other mushrooms, but I don’t know what they were:

But the best part, by far, was the food. Oh, my God. It was so yummy. Here’s a picture of my plate:

That thing at the top was some sort of taquito with mushrooms inside. Down below that was a mushroom fritter (the chef made up the recipe the night before!) with some crazy interesting mayo concoction on top. The kielbasa to the right of that was the best I’ve ever had. Then there was the pasta salad with mushrooms, and the various dips with mushrooms. The pepper at the bottom was stuffed with provolone and prosciutto.

I ate good. I ate so good.

I also got to try black trumpets that they had left over from the year before, but I didn’t think to take a picture of them. They were yummy too! Not too much flavor and fairly small. I think they’d be good to try if someone didn’t particularly like the texture of mushrooms. If you look at the picture of my plate, all the way to the right, there’s a white dip with bits of black in it. That had black trumpets in it.

So, over all, not a super successful foray. But it was really fun! We’ll definitely be going on the next one. Hopefully we’ll have better luck.

What do you think? Have I convinced you to go on a foray yet? Did any of that food look good to you?

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not an artist. (This, of course, is in regards to the mainstream definition of the word. I think I am – and each of you are – an artist of words, but I’m not here to talk about that today.) My grandmother liked to say that she couldn’t draw a straight line if she had three rulers. I tend to agree with that sentiment. Even my stick figures never quite look right.

This is all pretty amusing once you realize that I have a B.A. in art history. But, thankfully, you don’t have to be an artist to have an appreciation of art. It’s probably best that I’m not – it allows me to bask in the talents of others, wondering how anyone can create such a realistic/haunting/beautiful/enter-adjective-here painting/sculpture/drawing.

I got through three and a half years of college perfectly content with my studies. Then, in my last semester, I was told some horrifying news. I had to take an art class. Uh oh. While I’m a fairly creative person in general, I’ve never really applied these skills to producing a physical object. Least of all one that would be graded.

Crap.

Now, this art class was a bit different than your average course. I mean, I took 2D and 3D art in high school, where I did fine but didn’t excel (which didn’t bother me at all). This class, however, was called Aesthetics and it was all about the theories behind how art is created. Sometimes it was taught by my art history teacher, who focused on how it applied to our field. Sometimes it was taught by the art education professor, who focused on – you guessed it – how it applied to students who wanted to be teachers. And guess which one I got as a professor that semester?

Double crap.

You see, I never wanted to be a teacher. I’d probably be good at it. I have a fair amount of patience and I enjoy teaching other people. I’m good at breaking down complex problems, simplifying them, and then instructing others step-by-step how to understand them. Plenty of my high school teachers suggested I look into an education field, but I knew it wasn’t for me. It just wasn’t anything I wanted to do.

So this class was a little…pointless. Not only did I not particularly like this teacher (she was very nice – just a little too flaky for my analytical brain), but the entire curriculum literally had nothing at all to do with my major. So, yeah. It was a lot pointless. Unfortunately, this was a required class and was exactly the absolute last class I needed in order to graduate.

Oh, and did I mention that I had a Spanish class (required for my minor) that was in the same time slot that absolutely couldn’t be moved? That means that I had to take my aesthetics class online – where I would probably learn even less and definitely not get a chance to partake in discussions or have the benefit of asking questions during class.

(Can I insert a ‘triple crap’ here?)

Luckily, my professor really liked me. The class was super easy and I ended up getting an excellent grade, despite the fact that I never stepped foot in the class room. …Even if I did learn nothing from it. (Gotta love those standardized, cardboard cut-out requisites, right?)

But that’s a half lie. I did learn one thing: I can make art.

Yeah. Me! Who knew? I certainly didn’t.

The assignment was simple enough. We each got a shoe (my BFF brought one back for me, so half of my glory should probably go to her) that we had to turn into a piece of art. I don’t even remember what the unit was about. It might have been recycled material used for artwork. The point is we had a shoe. That we had to turn into a piece of art. A good piece of art, that is.

I mentioned it was going to be graded, right?

Now, I was lucky because I didn’t actually have to go to class. Still, I felt the pressure. Only three of the students in that class were art history majors. The rest were art ed majors. That means that they’re good at this sort of thing. After all, they wanted to do it for a living.

But you know how sometimes everything seems hopeless? You’re so overwhelmed because you just have too much going on. You have to prioritize your work. The more important stuff gets tossed on top of the heap and the less important things get the least of your attention. I learned to prioritize really well in college. I also learned that I didn’t have time to make every project my best project. I learned to be okay with that.

And sometimes – if you’re really lucky – your brain realizes how desperate and stressed you are, and it helps you out. It just gives you everything you need and you know that it’s going to work out perfectly.

This was one of those times.

I stared at the shoe for about five minutes – maybe less. And it hit me. The epiphany of my life. (I know, I know. You’re thinking, after 800+ words this had better be good. Oh, trust me. It is.)

Sushi.

No, no. Shoe-shi.

I was going to turn my shoe into a sushi platter. And a gorgeous platter it was going to be.

The shoe was completely white. Low heel. There was a single strap across the top that was a little thick and fairly wide. A basic, simple shoe. It would be perfect.

I cut the strap off and connected the ends so it looked like a doughnut. I colored this black with permanent marker. I stuffed the middle with cardboard, then took uncooked rice and mixed it with glue. I put the rice in both ends of the doughnut shape and then waited for it to harden.

The hard part was over. The base of the shoe was the platter. I painted – in red – Chinese symbols for “food.” Then I took two pencils, shaved them, and dipped them in white paint. I used marker again to make the ends black. These were the chopsticks. Then I wrote on a strip of paper the fortune (because what would sushi be without a fortune?). I connected the three pieces – the sushi, the chopsticks, and the fortune – to the base of the shoe and it was done.

Shoe-shi.

Now, I have a secret talent that few know I possess. This talent was bred from my natural way with words. It’s called: b.s.-ing. And I’m really, really good at it.

Of course I had to write a paper for this project, so that super secret talent came in handy. I came up with some pretty fabulous theories about what the shoe-shi platter represented. I wrote about how profound it was. Where it fit amongst the stars in the cosmos. Why it was important and what it told us about human nature.

Hey, I’m not proud to admit that I gave it less than my all, but I still earned that A+ and I wasn’t about to give it back.

(As a side note, my BFF has repeatedly told me she hates this super secret talent of mine. I can’t blame her, but, man, am I glad I have it.)

If you’ve made it this far along in my story, I applaud you. Thanks for sticking around. And, as a reward, here are a couple shots of my first real (and best ever) art project. I still have it. It’s sits on my dresser in my bedroom. Every once in a while I look up at it and smile, surprised that a non-artist like me was lucky enough to find the masterpiece inside her on her first try.

Yeah, that might be a humble brag. Just a little bit.

I consider this the back of the piece, though it gives a nice overview.

Here’s the shoe-shi platter in all its glory. Believe it or not, the hardest part was keeping those stupid chopsticks attached to the base.

I’m so proud of that rice. That was going to make or break the whole piece, so I’m glad it worked out! (The chopsticks says “Foo Chow” by the way, which is the name of the Chinese restaurant in the town I live in!)

I wanted a funny saying, and this was the best one I found. My favorite numbers are 4 and 17. The BFF’s are 8 and 3. And my mom’s birthday is on 10/27.

Are you artsy in the traditional sense of the word? What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever made? As a writer, do you share my super secret talent for coming up with the perfect words in the absolute least amount of time?

What’s the Point in Writing?

Posted: July 23, 2012 in Writing
Tags:

I’ve recently gotten into a discussion about the purpose of writing – both my own and that of better known pieces. As writers, we all know there are several types of naysayers out there. The ones who think it isn’t work, that they could easily write a book. The ones who think it’s useless, that it has no merit. The ones who just don’t see the point.

Sometimes I think they have a valid argument. Why do I write? What purpose does my writing have? What am I trying to accomplish here? It’s easy to point out some of the big names and say, “She was trying to convey a message about hope when one thinks all is lost,” or “He was trying to show us something about ourselves as a society.” But my writing? I hate to say it, but it’s just not that deep.

The discussion came up after I mentioned I started watching the show Supernatural. If you’re unfamiliar, it’s about two brothers who go all across the United States in search of demons, ghosts, and other things that go bump in the night. They’re hunters, and their job is to eradicate the country of evil.

This person just didn’t get it. “Why waste your time on a show like that? What good does it do to watch it?” Admittedly, she has a point. Most television doesn’t teach us much, if anything at all. Most of the time it just ends up putting money in the pockets of the already-rich. Most books fly by under the radar unless you’re lucky enough to make it big. And if you’re book is picked up by the masses, chances are it’s full of enough fodder to keep them entertained, but not necessarily informed of the things in life that matter. There are always exceptions, but that’s just what they are – exceptions.

I did a similar post a while ago about on why I write horror, but this is something a little different. This person is a relative, a close one at that, and absolutely means nothing against me. But how can I make her understand? How can I explain to her that silly shows like Supernatural or silly books like Harry Potter are important? That they add something meaningful to the world? That we need them?

What is their purpose?

I honestly don’t have the answer, and I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Just one more week to go and I can say that I completed all my goals for an entire month!

MAIN GOALS

These are the daily goals that won’t change throughout the round.

  1. Exercise for half an hour each day, five days a week. 5/5 I’m noticing that running isn’t quite as difficult as it was a couple weeks ago. While this is a great thing, I’m thinking I’m either going to have to pick up the pace or start running for longer than my regular five minute increments. The weight continues to slowly, slowly come off. Can’t complain about that one.
  2. Edit or write every day. 7/7 I haven’t done a lot of writing, but I made sure that I did write each day. This goal has been adjusted so that either editing previous stories or creating new ones will count. I plan on spending a good amount of time editing for the next few weeks.
  3. Read one chapter every day. 7/7 Guys, GUYS. Guess what? I finished a book. I finally finished up the book critique that I did for a fellow writer. It was called Marty Boggs and the Curse of Kutkara’s Tomb. It’s a children’s book, but I liked it. It especially picked up around the halfway mark and I’m glad that I got to read it. I’m a third of the way through my next book, which is a good and quick read.

FLUCTUATING GOALS

These are the goals that will change from week to week.

  1. Finish writing “Calling Card.” Done. This didn’t turn out quite how I imagined it the first time, but I think it has potential. It’ll need serious editing. My goal for this week is to edit story #1 in my collection.
  2. Pick one contest or one magazine I’d like to participate in for this month. Done. I chose an e-magazine to submit one of my better horror stories. I’m going to wait until I get to editing this story before I do anything more with this goal.

ROUND GOALS

I like knowing what I want to accomplish over the course of this round, as that will help determine what my weekly goals will be.

  1. Finish The End, my horror collection. Get some beta readers. This is 100% complete and now just needs to be edited again (and again, and again, and again…).
  2. Begin editing Lifetimes, the novel I’m focusing on right now. 0% I’m waiting until my beta readers get back to me, then I’m jumping into this one head first!
  3. Enter at least one competition or submit at least one article to a magazine. 0% Getting closer to achieving this goal! I have my magazine picked out. Now I need to edit, edit, edit!
  4. Read at least four books this month. 25% The first book is down and the second is on its way!

Extras

These are things that don’t warrant a full post, but are definitely items I’d like you to check out if you’re interested.

  1. I don’t want to beat this over the head as it has been covered so much in the media and it’s such a tragedy, but my heart truly aches for the people who were killed or affected by the shooting that took place at the midnight showing of The Dark Knight Rises. As a frequent moviegoer, it had me questioning whether or not I wanted to see this film in theatres. But of course we can’t live our lives in fear. Anything could happen at any time. Trying to avoid all possibilities is panic inducing and would likely lead to a breakdown. I’m seeing the movie this morning and planning on enjoying every single second of it.
  2. That surprise I hinted at a couple weeks ago is slowly developing. I’m hoping by the next ROW check-in I’ll be able to reveal it.
  3. My friend Ddog over at Gamerscene has quite a project in the works. He wants to get one person to represent each state in the U.S. and then have each of us review the same movie. The project has potential and it’ll be really neat to see the results. It’s also a great way to connect with fellow bloggers. If you’re a regular movie blogger (or even if you’re not and you’re just interested) or know anyone who is, please check out this link.
  4. I went on another mushroom foray yesterday. Look for a post (and pictures!) on Friday.
  5. Here’s a picture to make you smile:

    “Hey! I came in here for a reason…”

How did you guys do this week? Have you seen the new Batman film yet?

You’ll have to forgive me for doing a Featured Video two Fridays in a row. I’ve been suuuuper busy this week and I just can’t find time to sit down and write out the post I wanted to do for today (and do it justice).

This video has 11 million views, so there’s a good chance you’ve seen it before. If not, you’re in luck. If you have already seen it, you know that it has a high repeat value. (And just an FYI: If you don’t like the original version of the song, you’ll probably like Noah’s version. Just sayin’.)