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Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Ranking the Disney Princesses


Now I could be real fancy and do the same thing I did for the villains, using all kinds of nuanced criteria, calculated factors, and science theory. But fuck it, I'm just going with my heart. After all, that's what the princesses did, right?

From bottom to top:

Princess Aurora

She only has seventeen minutes of screen time. And she spends that either in a trance or dancing with owls and other vermin. Maybe that's why Maleficent gets all the reviews, because it's so easy to overshadow the protagonist.

Pocahontas

If it wasn't for Aurora being such a piece of cardboard, she would get the award for worst. She's preachy, hypocritical, and does nothing within her story arc. Her whole thing is "running from the steady path", but she gets right back on it. Refusing the smoothest course gets people killed. Nice job breaking it, hero. People applaud her for her bravery, I call it not knowing risks, like playing with a bear cub, or getting right in front of a gun (or anything that happens in Wild). Oh, and Meeko's a jerk too.

Snow White

She just looks like a creepy kewpie doll. I give a little credit that this was Disney's first princess and she started many of the tropes (cleaning, woodland animals, singing, princes), but she looks like a mannequin and acts like a RealDoll. And the alabaster skin isn't helping.

Cinderella

I give points for not falling into some of the more subtle trappings of the grouping. She's not all sunshine and happiness with a kind word for everybody. She gets irritated at the clock, potshots the cat for ruining the clean floor, comments on her sisters' "music lesson", and broke the rules to get to the ball. (In my head canon, Cinderella pulled a Tyler Durden and actually coach-jacked someone to get there). She didn't even go searching for a prince, she just wanted to have a good time.

Jasmine

Most people give Jasmine credit because he helped bloom their burgeoning sexuality. I don't give points for that. It's nice that she has enough self-worth to consider herself not a prize to be won... but she doesn't do anything to distinguish herself to that end. She's still the ball that Jafar and Aladdin are bouncing back and forth. A bare midriff does not a princess make.

Anna

She just had a Five Guys burder. "DAMN-DAMN-DAMN!"
The classic little sister. All hyper and plucky and clumsiness and adorkability. But after a while, wouldn't that just grate on you? Yeah, she's funny, but she can only accidentally hit you in the eye so many times. Thankfully, the point of Frozen is about her maturing, but her older sister makes us forget that she still exists.

Mulan

A tight little warrior. She's not good at being a marriageable girl, but she's a fine knight-in-shiny-underpants. But her lack of self-confidence gets annoying. Along with her stupid donkey-dragon that won't shut up. Why couldn't her and Pocahontas have switched sidekicks? And, look, I'm just gonna say it -- she's not that pretty. I like her resourcefulness, but her arc still hinges on refusing the steady path. Is she just a Chinese Pocahontas?

Tiana

I might have ranked her lower, but Doug Walker's Top Ten Hottest Animated Women introduced me to a few factors I hadn't thought of. Most of all that she's such a workaholic (to the point of ridiculousness). And workaholics get shit done. I bet she'd still be baking beignets as a frog if she hadn't changed back. And even though she has no relation to the bad guy, I like the Faustian bargain she's faced with at the end. Plus her friend Lottie is hilarious.

Rapunzel
I consider Rapunzel an artsy version of Tiana. Whereas the queen of New Orleans learned business and food services, Rapunzel honed her art skills. If they went to college, Rapunzel would have gotten a B.A. and Tiana a B.S. The long hair is cool, but it would have been cooler if it moved on its own like Spawn's cape and chains (the first trailer implied this was going to happen -- maybe I just feel lied to). She has some of the same adorkability and clumsiness that Anna has, but it's not as obnoxious. Maybe because she's got Flynn to temper her out.

Belle

It's hard to say no to a Disney princess who encourages reading. She wants to escape from the tiny town she's in and she gets just that and more. But she's a little snooty about it, both in the town and the castle. Even when the Beast allows her access to the castle, she still gets waited on hand and foot. It's the servants trying to manipulate the two of them to get together. She doesn't feel like she's the avenue of her success. Her "I want adventure in the great wide somewhere..." sounds so cheesy now, especially that her entire character arc takes place in not that.

Moana

I think she needs more time to simmer and let us all contemplate her place in the context of Disney's animated canon. Right now, we're being blinded by the fact we've got a princess that's shiny and new.

No, I was not talking about you.

Anyway, I like her as a combinations of Elsa and Anna + a dash of Lilo. If she's got the chops to get the respect of her village at her age, then she's all right by me. But she's also got a demigod in her pocket and an ocean helping her out. Oh, don't mind me, I've only got three-quarters of the world with my back. My only quibble is with her "chosen one" saddle she keeps melancholy over. Not even Harry Potter was this maudlin.

Elsa


I mean come on, can I say anything that hasn't already been said? Sure you could make an argument that she's a queen, not a princess. But she's power and character flaws. All the adorkability of Anna plus all the struggle of a hero. She needs to find redemption. It's her constant goal not to give into her power, her villainy, like the dark side of the force.

Merida

Poor Merida suffered from a clash of directors and production companies, but still managed to become a memorable character. I could watch her curly red hair fly around all day, it's so beautifully animated. There's bears, three little brothers, thick Scottish accents, swords, differing relationships with mothers and fathers, and independence.

Ariel


I had a "Little Mermaid"-themed party for my ninth birthday. And need I remind you I'm a boy. Nuff said.

Oh, you want more? She's got it all: free-spirited, bright, pretty, young, curious, artistic, musical, selfless, protective, loyal. She's got great sidekicks, great theme song, high intelligence, high relatability. If she was a D&D character she'd be overpowered.

Still not enough? Fine then, let me show you Exhibit A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H and most damning -- I. You ain't gonna convince me otherwise.

Monday, March 20, 2017

The Books I Read: January - February 2017

 
 
Geek Love by Katherine Dunn

I wasn't aware of this novel until the author died, which was recently. Neil Gaiman and a few other writers used this as their parting memory--a particularly influential book (Kurt Cobain cited it as an influence). I looked it up and found the summary intriguing -- a married couple engineers their children to be circus freaks for their literal "Family Circus". It sounded horrific and darkly bizarre, like all those dark carnival/clown tropes I love.

The accolades are not dismissible. Whereas a book like "Stranger in a Strangeland" is tainted by anachronisms (like the hippie counter-culture and there being actual life on Mars), this one has no such compunctions. Although it has the sensibilities of the mid-seventies (published in 1980), it's not steeped in that culture, adding to timelessness. It's basically the family story the husband and wife traveling carnival owners and their four circus freak children -- one's a dolphin-boy, one/two are Siamese twin girls, one's an albino hunchback who's our POV character (because she's just a run of the mill abnormality). The main plot thread involves the dolphin-boy who gets hungry for fame. So he grows his mild audience of curiosity into a migratory cult of amputees.

But this is just one--it reads like a rise and fall of an empire as jealousy and ignorance lead to destruction. There's also a strange framing device about the hunchback keeping a stalker eye on the daughter she gave up for adoption, and this starts in the beginning but doesn't come back until the end. I think that's the novel's biggest flaw.

I can honestly say I've never read a book like this. Like "Freaks" crossed with "East of Eden". The characters are well-developed and evolve over the course of the story. Even the infodumps are fun to read, assuming you like reading "top five miscarriages I keep in glass jars in our trailer". Is this book for everyone? Definitely not. It's for the subset of people who like Rob Zombie and Alan Moore. It contains elements we take for granted now that made big booms on the 1980's video shelves, like surgical horror and deformity. For some reason, it seems to resonate with females more than males, maybe because of the "freaky but family" vibe. The shock value has a pay-off.

Now... all that being said, this is the book that made me re-evaluate my criteria for selection and sticking with a book on the "to-read shelf". It's really good, but it's JUST SO LONG. I felt trapped by it at a certain point, like I was in book jail. Reading the same set of characters in the same plot forever on, never coming to an end. Is there such a thing as hate-reading? Like hate-fucking? Where you're enjoying the act on a base level, but your forebrain is motivated by spite or malice to continue? That's what it felt like. Maybe I've got a short attention span, maybe I'm the MTV generation, but this book didn't need to be as long as it was. I am of the mind that editing is a golden gift. As crucial as knowing what to put in is what to take out.


Dishonored: The Corroded Man by Adam Christopher (sampled)

I'm glad I didn't start this. It starts with a long prologue to communicate a whole bunch of exposition with minimal dialogue, minimal character development... ALL of which is condensed 100% in the four-line epigraph at the start. Nothing happens that isn't repeated a hundred times.

It doesn't feel consistent with the games. The games have high speech, Shakespearean plotlines, and compelling characters. Nothing is told, everything is shown--in setting, dialogue, and logs you find. Not so here. It's like fanfic--all narrative and description. The author forgets to the make the characters speak once in a while. I counted half a dozen places in the prologue alone where dialogue could have been used to exposit, let alone making the story INTERESTING.

Then I remembered out the author was the same as "Made to Kill", which I gave two stars (meaning I wouldn't even take it with me to a desert island if I could take any and all books I wanted). That was the final nail in the coffin (even though I had already buried the book). So even though I've never read a video game tie-in that was any good, I place the fault of this tie-in entirely on the author. There is great material to work with and he botched it with poor writing techniques. Have someone talk once in a while, Christopher.


Flowers in the Attic by V.C. Andrews (sampled)

Everyone makes a big deal out of this one, mostly for the incest, but I liked the idea of children being forced to live in an attic while waiting for an old man to kick off so they can inherit his fortune. However, the writing style is entirely too Gothic. Maybe I wasn't in the right headspace for this one at the time, but I don't think I ever will be. The composition is too flowery, too overtly elaborate with vocabulary rooted in mystery, gloom, and atmosphere. Full of gender stereotypes too. I guess the problem with stuffing kids in an attic is that there isn't a lot for them to do. A Series of Unfortunate Events is much better at making the kind of cheerless ambience without being depressing. This book is for good girls to read when they want to feel naughty.


Not One Damsel in Distress: World Folktales for Strong Girls by Jane Yolen

Ah, here's some bread and butter -- folk tales and female protagonists. This isn't exactly "Rejected Princesses", but it's a nice change from all the fairy tale compilations I've read in the past (Grimm's Fairy Tales, The Book of Goodnight Stories) where, if the hero is a girl, her objective is to learn some kind of domestic skill (like Rumpelstiltskin) or how to stop being a bitch (like The Frog Prince).

In this book, sometimes the female hero is just a substitute for a boy (there's a very Jack and the Beanstalk-like tale at the end), but several remind me of Mulan. There's marriages, there's fighting, there's monsters, as there are in most folk tales. Nothing new there.

Like any short story collection, it's a mixed bag, and it's hard to judge stories written nine hundred years ago. I don't know if there are better collections out there, but this seems like a good one to start with. It's a breath of fresh air from Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty, and if you liked Brave, this will accompany the coffee table nicely.


Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick

Very average. The style is like her tweets -- hilarious and offbeat -- but there isn't enough content to write about. She talks about her start as a child theater actor in New York, going to Hollywood, living like all new actresses do, being starstruck by fame, yucky guys she met, and so on. The big thing is that she suffered no obstacles on her road to stardom. No ill effects. Amy Poehler spent years struggling in improv, Tina Fey was responsible for bringing SNL out of the lean years of Norm MacDonald and heralded the coming of the SNL Women (Cheri Oteri, Molly Shannon, Ana Gasteyer, etc), and then THE maker for a nine-season TV show. Lindsey Stirling failed America's Got Talent, had an eating disorder, and tours the world without a major label backing. Felicia Day was homeschooled, addicted to WoW, and became an actress after graduating college at 18 as a classical violinist. But nothing bad ever happened to Anna Kendrick (besides the standard new-to-Los-Angeles-living-hand-to-mouth stuff) because she was cute and spunky. And Hollywood loves cute and spunky. She's never been rejected -- she got handpicked for the biggest money-maker of the decade (Twilight) PLUS the most critically-acclaimed (Up In the Air).

I had a hard time deciding how many stars to give this one. Two means it doesn't make it to my desert island (where I don't bring anything I wouldn't read again, but no limit on the number I can bring), but three feels like too much. It's got great humor, but she's too young for even a memoir. You got to have SOMETHING interesting in your life, something with CONFLICT, before you should consider committing pen to paper (or fingers to keys). I would love to see a book by her about something other than herself (like Aziz Ansari did for Modern Romance). But in this one, the stakes are no bigger than unwashed hair.


Library of Souls (Miss Peregrine's Peculiar Children #3) by Ransom Riggs

Much better than the sequel. I'm glad I stuck around -- I was very close to giving up series completion after that tepid book 2. This one fixes the mistakes made in the last. It's much more action-oriented, and stays focused on the two main characters (and their talking dog) instead of an entourage of children. New characters add new obstacles, both of which have dynamic identity. It gives the villain some personality and motivation, develops him and his desires finally. The settings are creative and original. The plot is a bit by-the-numbers (the "quest to stop the bad guy"), but the brush and art painted on the framework are lovely.

It reminded me of The Golden Compass, but it's much easier to understand. Given that, the peculiarity becomes more of a gimmick. But I believe this can be a modern near-classic, like "The Great Brain". It's trying to emulate Harry Potter, with larger-than-life characters and settings, and though it misses the moon by a mile, it's still among the stars.


Return to the Isle of the Lost by Melissa de la Cruz

I expected better out of the sophomore effort. This is too much like the last one, maybe even a little worse because of that. The first third is spend tooling around the school, doing NOTHING. It's even more cutesy than the Wicked World shorts, and spends too much time dwelling on things the audience already knows (no one is going to read a Descendants novel without knowing the Descendants universe). Then another third tooling around the isle. And the last third is the SAME four quests, one for each character.

It doesn't even expand new characters. The deus ex magicka is overplayed. There are plot threads that were super out-of-character (if they don't drop away into irrelevancy/forgetfulness), like Yen Sid being a Dumbledore wizard instead of a Samuel L. Jackson don't-fuck-with-my-hat motherfucker. The "twist" is viewable from a mile away. I have a bad feeling I won't be able to complete the third one.

Monday, March 13, 2017

I Hate Dream Sequences

 

I am a writer and I hate dream sequences.

More than any other convention or cliche, dream sequences are the stupidest thing ever cooked up by the author's imagination. I avoid them wherever I can. I avoid them like a river of lava. And if the time comes when I absolutely have to set foot in it, when I've exhausted all other options for alternate routes, backtracking, and even digging under the earth, I still don't do it. Nothing wastes more of the readers time than going into a dream. I wish more creative writing teachers and guru told students to avoid this disease of books. Here's why:

1) Dream sequences in books don't follow dream logic. This was also one of my (and others') big complaints about Inception, but I could dismiss it because Leonardo diCaprio's character says "the more unrealistic the dream gets, the more the dreamer becomes aware that it's a dream (and the more chance of getting kicked out/attacked). So I suspended disbelief. Maybe it had something to do with the magic machine. But any other time, the dream always follows the same logic and physics of the real world. As if the creator's trying to fool you that this is reality. There are no transitions, no randomness, no sense of mindscape. Dreams should be like fantasies, like Mena Suvari's boobs turning into roses in American Beauty.



2) They're always filler. I have rarely found a dream sequence in a book or movie that didn't already have a minimal run time/word count. Usually because of a paper-thin plot. If it's not an excuse to exhibit cool stuff for the trailer without consequences on the plot, like Batman v. Superman, then it's padding.


3) They're always foreshadowing. No one ever dreams about something that happened in the past or current emotions. It's always something in the future. Every protagonist suddenly becomes clairvoyant when they dream. I guess heroes all gain ESP while they sleep. Suddenly they can see what the bad guy is doing, or how the hero might die. The Matrix does this. Star Wars does this. Lord of the Rings does this. Dune does this. The freakin' bible does this. It's tiresome. It's like the author forgot there are other ways to foreshadow than using dreams. And then we get to the point of the story where reality catches up to the dream and the audience goes "hey, I remember that. Wow, everything came full circle. Let me suck the author's dick now." Nothing important happened, you dolt. The author just showed you the "coming up next" reel.

4) They all end the same. The dream wakes up sweaty and screaming, gasping like they were underwater. If they were in bed with someone, he/she wakes up too and comforts the dreamer. "Go back to bed, sweetheart. It was just a dream." But it WASN'T all a dream. We--the audience--know that. That's the dramatic irony of it all. Oh, foul Mistress Irony, when we you release your cold hands from my bosom.



5) Nothing changes as a result. Any time I see there's a dream sequence in a book, I know I can skip it because nothing is going to happen in the real world until the person wakes up. By its nature, you can't proceed with the plot until the dream is over. Dreams can only ever add to characterization. The scene NEVER has a bearing on the plot or setting. 99% of the time you can take the dream sequence out and nothing changes with the story. It doesn't belong.

And does the dreamer do anything about the dream afterward? NO. He/she never changes course of action, because what idiot would? "Well, I remember seeing this exact thing in my dream last night, and when I went to the left, a glass pane fell on me. But that couldn't possibly happen in the real world, could it?" No one ever holds their head in their hands and goes "Oh, waily waily waily, if I only I had paid attention to that dream I could have avoided all these dire consequences." Nope. Because that person also dreamt that he was getting a jumbo pop from an elephant and what the hell are you supposed to do with that information.

Maybe my hatred stems from my own personal experiences -- I rarely dream. And when I do, the dreams are rooted in primal emotions--usually frustration, loneliness, longing for adventure, and friendship. But always weird shit: me and Neil Gaiman defending a mall from a throng of zombies, a girl strutting her stuff on the deck of a pirate ship and then her boobs turning into butterflies. Last night I had a dream that some cops were indirectly accusing me of pedophilia in a 1980's house, and then there were zombie trees that ate people and turned them into tree-human zombies and it was like X-Files, and Smoking Man appeared at the end, not blown up like at the end of the series. None of them -- NONE of them -- are ever anything remotely considered prophetic.

My personal experience does not negate others -- maybe some people do have logical dreams. I hope they are very happy fighting the orcs and piloting spaceships that I'm sure exist in their world.\

Friday, March 10, 2017

Random Thoughts

Are the "It" from "It Follows" and "It" from "It" related? Asking for a friend.


OMG, I think The Rescuers and the Rescue Rangers are somehow related. Maybe they're like rival companies? The Rescue Aid Society is the big business and Rescue Rangers is the offshoot startup. I think I've got my next Disney crossover.

What would happen if you ate the One Ring? Would it just pass through your system or could you digest it? I know stomach acid isn't lava, but still, I don't know what's special about Mount Doom's lava. Or would it just stay there? And would it make you invisible? You're not wearing the ring but the ring's wearing you.

Monday, February 20, 2017

A Disney Blog Survey

I'm pretty much done with the Disney Villains analysis. Unless I somehow catch "Bolt" or "Treasure Planet" in a moment of drunken weakness, the list is complete. So how about a little Disney survey I found on some blog.

Favorite villian?



Well, this is a hard one to choose. After scrutinizing them all, I've got so many that tickle my cookies.

I like Hades just because he's so funny and "out-there". Sure, lump me in with the fangirls if you must -- I like what I like. Plus he fits in neatly anywhere -- the "Hercules" TV series, Kingdom Hearts, House of Mouse -- he's good in any situation. Yzma's much the same. I bet they could make a solid duo.

I also have to give props to Prince Hans. People still talk about how this Prince Charming fooled them all, and I count myself among that group of fools. Kudos to you, Jennifer Lee, Chris Buck, and Shane Morris. It takes a strong story to pull me away from my super critic. And Ichabod gets the same credit. Seventy years later, who thought this lanky fool was the movie's bad guy?

Madame Medusa is an underrated villain because... damn, girl, she's just mean. Who kidnaps an orphan to shove into a well to mine for diamonds? At least Cruella just messed with puppies. And the Queen of Hearts is memorable for the same regard, though it's more for bark than bite. But what a bark!

But if you got to make me choose, I'll pick Ursula, for purely personal reasons. Not to say she's not a good villain. She's spot on for motivation, powers, henchmen, and personality.

Scene that always makes you cry?


 
I thought the part where Anna and Elsa's parents die in Frozen was a particularly good bit of filmmaking -- in that it made me feel an emotion. It's unexpected, it's early in the film, and it's done without words. I mean, yeah, Disney's known for killing off parents, but not usually after establishing character.

If I was younger, I probably would have said "Baby Mine" from Dumbo -- at that age, I couldn't think of anything worse than your mother behind bars, unable to be touched but for the trunk she can just barely stretch out the window. And this is "circus prison", not no comfy Orange is the New Black holding facility.

But my favorite is in Wreck-It Ralph. The whole movie speaks to me and not just because it's about video games. Ralph's whole life has been labeled as a villain. But he's not really a bad guy -- he's a necessary part of life. The other side of the coin. The yang to the yin. Without him, there's no game. Us cynics and analysts can sympathize -- no one wants to hear what we have to say because we're always right.

Throughout the story, he struggles to be "good", to "earn that medal", but ultimately fails when he has to return to his role as the heartless villain to save the girl he's bonded with. At the end, the only way to save everyone is to sacrifice himself by plunging into the volcano to set off a giant Diet Coke-Mentos explosion. And as he plummets with his meaty fist outstretched, he repeats the video game villain's mantra to himself for strength and resolve: "I'm bad, and that's good. I will never be good, and that's not bad. There's no one I'd rather be than me."

Best multi-movie series?



I'm lucky that all but the bad Disney movies have gotten direct-to-DVD sequels, so I can just pick my favorite, which is The Little Mermaid. The second one is awful and the third one is average, but no one said I had to sit through the others.

But if we're disqualifiing the home videos, I'd say Winnie-the-Pooh is my favorite of the theatricals. It's got the strongest characters and the most lovable story. I can't believe that my kids never got into it.

But if we are including the DVD sequels AND I've got to count all of them together, I'd say Aladdin has the strongest showing. Tarzan is a close second, with the excellent Tarzan II.

Movie you wish there was a sequel to?



Big Hero 6 and Zootopia come to mind immediately, but I have to make exception for them since they are so recent, so there may be plans already in the works. I'd love to see what happens next in Zootopia with Nick and Judy working as police partners in a true buddy cop film. Watching them together was the highlight of the movie. And Big Hero 6? It's a superhero movie -- it was MADE to have a sequel, even if you don't count the after-credits scene. I don't care how they got their powers, I want to see everyone use their powers. Also, more fluffy robot.

If we're talking entries in the past, I wouldn't mind seeing a follow-up to Pinocchio. There's a lot of material from the books that wasn't used (most for good reason, let's just say it), but there's still a lot of angles to take. Even if we aren't doing a midquel, and continue from when Pine-Eyes is a real boy, there's still plenty of human exploration to go. Star Trek milked it for decades, why can't Disney?

And personally, I want to see more of Merida from Brave. She's got the strongest personality of any Disney princess, including the most recent ones. It shouldn't have to suffer in obscurity because it had directorial problems as Disney and Pixar changed hands. Just look at Pocket Princesses and tell me you can't cobble a movie together out of that.

Favorite animal character?



Does Beast count? He's really kind of an amalgamation of animals. Or the bottom half of Ariel?

Well, I've always had a soft spot for the Cheshire Cat, with his shit-eating grin and devil-may-care attitude. And as long as we're talking retro, might as well mention Baloo. Also known as Little John. Also known as Thomas O'Malley. Also known as Humphrey. Also known as all the other schlumphy happy-go-lucky bears in Disney canon.

But I guess I like Maximus more than others -- a combination of horse and Javert. He's remarkably ethical, loyal, determined, and does it all without talking. I feel like Maximus is ushering in a new age for side-kicks, where they're not just the Greek chorus, like R2-D2/C-3P0 or Sebastian/Flounder. Where they have a more deuteragonisty role.

Side note: Pegasus doesn't get enough credit for his role. From when he's a cute little baby to when he blows out Hades's hair.

Last movie you watched?



Beauty & the Beast. With the kids. Probably inspired by the upcoming live-action film with creepy-looking Lumiere and Mrs. Potts with the wrong nose.

Rank your top 5 favorite princesses:


I'm planning this for a fuure blog entry, so stay tuned. Hopefully I'll remember to link back to it when it's done.

Which fictional Disney "land" would you like to live in?



Well, at first I thought "Lilo and Stitch" because they live in Hawaii. But then I saw "fictional" land. And besides I don't like warm weather. And there's too much fruit.

Wreck-It Ralph could be pretty fun. Heck, you get to live in all those video game lands. I do that anyway most of the time. I know the death rate is pretty high, but you're neighbors with Aliens, Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory, and Tapper's bar.

But I've got to go with Lady and the Tramp for the same reasons Walt Disney had. It was designed to be THE idyllic, refined upper-middle class suburbia. Everyone's got a milkman, a white picket fence, and a licensed dog. The men are men, the women are women, and all the children are above average.

Disney loved it so much he based Main Street, U.S.A. off of its design (or the other way around, I'm not sure). Maybe it's because I'm a privileged straight white male (actually I'm certain it's because) but it seems like a good place to retire to. As long as we can upgrade the technology by about a hundred years.

Have you ever named a pet after a Disney character?



At first I thought no, I've only had the chance to participate in one naming of a pet in my life (my two dogs, I didn't get much say, given the kids). But then I realized -- yes! Dinah! Dinah was named after the little red kitten in Alice in Wonderland.

Now given, she was in the book before the movie, but she was truly named after Disney's bit player. I was surprised how quickly my sister agreed to this name (we were eight and six at the time). We never agreed on ANYTHING. Every little option was always a power struggle, because somehow we thought whoever's idea was taken got some kind of authority points.

But I suggested Dinah, thinking it was a good cat name, and she said yes. So then it was decided. Now Dinah (our cat) looked nothing like Dinah (Alice's cat). Ours was a black and white tabby with green eyes and no pink bow. I don't even think their personalities were the same. But we named her while she was still in the humane society cage, so that wasn't a factor.

If you were going to name your children with Disney character names, what would you choose? (First and middle, girl and boy.)


Alice Ariel and Taran Hercules

Make yourself a Disney family (e.g. mother, father, sister, brother)



Father - My first thought was Beast, because as funny as it was seeing him adjust to Belle, I think it would be thrice-so to see him do parenting stuff. But hilarity isn't a good reason for selecting a father figure, especially since I wouldn't be on the outside looking in -- it's not like this is a sitcom. So I choose Tarzan. Despite his loutish ways, he's actually a wise and just man. He doesn't eschew gentlemanly ways. He's a protector and provider, and great for wrasslin'.

Mother - Slim pickings in this category, since Disney loves nothing more than killing off mothers -- off-screen or on. Nonetheless, there are some ideal candidates here. It'd be easy for me to claim someone hot like Jasmine or Megara or Snow White (she's only fourteen!). I think Aurora has a lot of potential. There's no evidence, but having to deal with those fairies for sixteen years shows great patience. She's a little dreamy, but she's mature. However, I think Maid Marian would be a better mom. We see she has a strong rapport with kids, given the scene with bunny kids. She's playful, brave, friendly, and she's relatively safe from harm. Prince John doesn't imprison her or kidnap her for his bride. She doesn't even show up after the party until the marriage epilogue.

Sister - For a big sister, Moana. She's new on the scene, but I love her daring nature and strong will. She's the kind of girl who'll help you sneak out of your house at midnight to go cruising with all her cool older friends. For a little sister, Alice. She's so damn quirky you gotta love her. She's like the precocious five-year-old on all the TGIF sitcoms. Highly suggestible, but too polite to complain. Yes, Alice, tell me all about the invisible cat and the deck of cards that chased you. And when she makes a billion dollars off her book, you can auction off her crayon drawings.

Brother - There's only one choice here -- Kuzco. Big or small, emperor or llama, there's always a party where this guy's going. He'll throw you down a waterfall, but then feel bad and let you look inside his potions cabinet. And let's not forget he owns a sweet, sweet waterpark.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

What's So Bad About Ghostbusters 2?


So what was so wrong about Ghostbusters 2? I don't get it. It's pretty surprising to have a fandom based on only two movies, but to have one of those movies actively disliked? That's an entire half of the canon you're leaving out.

If you can't already tell, I liked it. I was eight years old when it came out and the first thing I did when I got home was make a crayon/stapled book of the movie. Of course, I wasn't prone to deep critical analysis back then. And why should I be? No movie is without sin. And if you like something, no one should be able to tell you that you're dumb or stupid for liking it. No matter what it is. I like Disney Princesses more than my own daughters. I asked for Elsa, Anna, and Rapunzel figures for Disney Infinity for Christmas, because I wanted to watch them kick some ass on the screen.

Of course, I don't know when they became the Three Stooges, but...


But I digress. Sure, Ghostbusters 2 may be a little samey, but what of it? It's a formula that worked, so why not try and follow it again. And honestly, it's not like they hit the same notes beat for beat. That's what Ghostbusters 2016 did wrong. They didn't need to re-establish everything. They didn't need to rebuy the firehouse or rehash the Venkman/Dana awkward flirting. It's a "getting the band back together" story.

The effects are still great. The characters are still great -- not one of them phones in a performance and they still sing to the audience. There are new characters and those lead to new relationships. There's a baby we need to look out for now AND Dana is a single mother (which was a big deal in 1989 [see Murphy Brown]). The "slime" has gotten a bigger spotlight. The bad guy has more of a backstory/role than being some macguffin. And he has a henchman, not a weirdo Rick Moranis. Who by the way IS back, and has gotten a makeover, along with Janine.

And got BIZZ-ZAY


And the most important thing: it stays true to the spirit of the material without repeating the same thing over again. That's the problem with Superman movies, 1980's CG cartoon nostalgia cash-ins like "Alvin and the Chipmunks" and "The Smurfs". Even Goat-boy is retching by now. I can't wait until there's an Alf movie. And then there's Austin Powers, Scream, Saw, Grease, Jaws, Jurassic Park that saw their continuations met with diminishing returns. Why? Because they didn't change enough. But Ghostbusters 2 maintains the comedy + horror vibe that made the first one so great. Mixing genres is a surefire way to my heart, even if it is the same movie.


And do I think it's the same movie? Well, I might have nostalgia goggles on, but no. It follows the same rises and falls in action that the first one did (The Scoleri Brothers instead of Slimer, giant Statue of Liberty instead of Marshmallow Man), but the motivations and plot events are totally different. And that's all right in my book.

And this game was way way WAY too hard

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

My New Reading Policy

So after looking over my past logs for books (two years really), I realize there's a reason my yearly rate is on the decline. And it's not just because of new comics. It's because I'm reading too many bad books. For 2016 my scoring average was 2.93. That means I read more books that I scored below average than above. This scoring should be at four. It's not like I grade on a curve. There's no reason I couldn't have an entire year of five star books.


So to that end, I'm going to be a bit more picky about my selections. Too many times I've been fooled by classics that turn out to be antiquated and overwritten "post-modern literary" tripe. Most of the time I get my selections from my role models, whenever they happen to tweet about what they're reading. People like John Green, Rainbow Rowell, Mike Krahulik. Sometimes I hear about an interesting concept, like a robot detective. Sometimes it's a memoir from someone I like. Sometimes it's a book I feel like I should have read. But now we've got some more rules before anything makes it on the "to-read" list.

Books will get minus points for being:

  • More than five years old, with each subsequent year increasing the minus on a graduated scale. Anything written earlier than 2010 gets scrutiny -- I won't know how to write for today if I'm reading for twenty years ago.
  • Too long. Hard to tell because page count doesn't necessarily equal number of words. But my Kindle has a reading speed monitor and can tell me how long it'll take to finish something.
  • Less than a 3.9 rating on GoodReads, correlated with a graduated scale of "number of reviews". In other words, just because everyone else has read it doesn't mean I should.

Also, I must read a sample of the book before committing. Too many times I forget I can just quit a book and fall to "time-sunk fallacy". Maybe it's because if I don't finish it, I don't feel right in writing a review for it and can't add it to my tally. Or it's "I've gotten this far, I may as well finish it at this point". No! No! Stop that. Bad boy. Quit the bad books. Have a more discerning palate. If you want to stop in the middle of Wuthering Heights because it's boring, then do it! I don't care if people think less of me.



Maybe it's because I never hear of authors telling the truth about books they read. They always gush or say "I ate up everything written by him/her", like authors need to like everything. Like how actors never say so-and-so was hard to work with or whether the movie they're in is any good or not.

This means there'll be a new category in my "The Books I Read" feature -- sampled. This is like "unfinished" but in this case, I read the sample and decided based on it whether or not to put it on the "to-reads". I'll explain my perceptions of the book, but I won't be posting the review anywhere, since it's not fair to judge a book based on a sample IMHO. *

Finally, going to try and avoid non-fiction. Not because non-fiction is tending towards badness, but because it's not doing my fiction any favors when I'm reading exclusively on one subject. It's hard to think of ideas for a fantasy-monster story while my mindset is in military women. Also, I've just read so much of it this past year I can take a break.

Now, given the criteria above, please understand: I'm not saying there's anything WRONG with these kinds of books. This is for me and me only -- your experiences no doubt vary. But I keep falling into these kinds of books and they're starting to feel like "reading jails". No matter how many pages you read you never feel closer to finishing, whether it's because it's long or hard to parse or full of fantastic language that slows down the plot. I need to have a higher standard for myself -- or at least a fresh start -- or I'm going to start hating reading.

*I have no idea how book reviewers do it. I read as fast as I can, but it takes me eight hours to finish a best-seller.