Friday, June 28, 2013

The Quest For Skye: Chapter 1

Well, well, well, J. L. Rothdiener, we meet again.

You all may remember him from his Christian book The Quest For Forgiveness, which I read a few months ago and was not a fan of. My friend Travis was highly amused with my... shall we say passionate ranting against the book, and offered to purchase the second book in Rothdiener's "The Quest For..." series, provided that I would snark it on my blog.

Challenge accepted.

The second book is called The Quest For Skye, and it is available for $2.99 on Kindle, so if you would like to purchase one and read along with me, please do. I only ask that if you spend money on it, that you also leave a review on Amazon when you've finished reading it. If you genuinely love it, then, um... I'm glad for you? But I can't possibly be the only one who sees this author's true lack of talent, and it would be nice to not be the only 1-star reviewer on both his books.

I hope to write something for the series every Friday. I figure I'll read it until I just can't take it anymore and have to put it down. We'll see how far I get today.

All right, I've read the synopsis, and it looks like it's going to be one of those plots I have a bit of a bias against anyway - "young child changes people's lives by being hopeful and inspirational." So, admittedly, I'll be working past that bias. However, there's some medicine and science involved in the story, which is going to be awesome, given the author's previously demonstrated lack of expertise with anything involving technical knowledge.

Let's get started.
The fury of the restless waves pounded the cliffs as the scientists fought desperately for a cure.
That's the opening sentence.

This is going to be a long journey.
Near the center of the island was a small hospital, a clinic with an experimental laboratory. To an outsider, the unusual nature of the lab's equipment might have suggested the lair of mad geniuses, bent on world domination, or the creation of some breathless monstrosity. But these were not characters in a horror movie. They were dedicated physicians and scientists, fighting against the clock - fervently searching for the cure to a certain disease before it stole more innocent lives... the lives of children.
This book is going to be a lot more fun if I just decide right now that I'm going to read the whole thing aloud in my most dramatic voice.

"Before it stole more innocent lives... the lives..."

(Insert thunder and lightning.)

"...of CHILDREN!"

We're told a team of researchers are on the brink of a breakthrough in "the medical field," and he throws some doctor babble at us about mixing up a "pharmaceutical surrogate of their own invention" and putting a radioactive microorganism in it. So that's cool, although we don't really know why or how this will save innocent lives... the lives of children.

We're introduced to our first character with a name:
Doctor Layland Leontiou, a Greek billionaire whose sole purpose in life was to combat childhood diseases.

I really hope everyone in this book is clearly a character from a parody soap opera.

We meet Doctors Whitman (who is a nuclear physicist), Miller, Bowman, and Malinda, "the lone female in the group." Malinda is married to Doctor Layland Leontiou, though it's a little insulting that the only woman doing science is there because she's married to the Greek billionaire funding the science. Also, I dare you to say "Malinda Leontiou" three time fast.

Doctor Whitman explains that they're releasing an organism into another vial. If it's too slow, it will be "ineffective," but if it's too fast, things will EXPLODE. So that's fun.

Doctor Layland Leontiou is worried, but Malinda reassures him by telling him the computer will take care of the whole thing, and, by, the way, her heart tells her that "this is it," so he finally says, fine, they can do their experiment.
The men, experts in their fields, inserted their hands into the gloves, ready to begin the process.
He's told us like 3 times in the past 2 pages that these guys are experts. We know this already. Is there some reason that it's even more important for us to know this as they put on gloves? Can these gloves only be handled by experts? Are they explosive gloves? Do they put gloves on in a special way? Can you tell if someone is an amateur by the way they put on their gloves? Why is that explanation in this sentence?

All they really do with their gloves is put the vials in the right place, and then they back up and watch the computer arm put the vials together. Malinda Leontiou explains to Doctor Layland Leontiou that the organism is going to "take the form of a retrovirus," and then attach itself to defective genes and destroy them. So we finally have an explanation for what explosive medical nuclear science they're doing.

But then something goes wrong, and you know it's gone wrong because the computer screen freezes, and a siren goes off:
Immediately, a siren sounded throughout the compound, followed by a continuous announcement: "Warning! Warning! Computer shutdown! Warning! Warning! Computer shutdown!"
That seems like a useful alarm. I wish I had one like it.

Since the computers have frozen, the computer arm just goes crazy and dumps ALL the radioactive organism into the vial, and the door isolating the scientists from this deadly virus just swings open because it's been "deprived of its electromagnetic signal." Everybody runs away because "If air touches, the virus, it will explode," and Malinda is dragged away from her laptop:
"My computer," she screamed, reaching for her life's work.
Apparently this Greek billionaire and his team of very very experty experts have never heard of backup files or backup security. Seriously, for doing such an extremely dangerous experiment with all this expertise and all this money, they did it really stupidly. You'd think they'd want to watch for things like, oh, say, the deadly virus isolation chamber door randomly swinging open if the billionaire's wife's personal computer stops controlling it.
The men rushed to aid Whitman, the brave scientist who was using his own body to shield the others from the harmful rays.
Have the harmful rays touched air yet? I was promised explosions. Where are my explosions?

Whitman dramatically yells at everyone to go, and that "It's too late for me," and he desperately tries to hold that door shut - the one that keeps automatically swinging open.

Everybody makes it to the decontamination room right before EXPLOSION. Whitman is instantly killed, the entire lab bursts into flames, and the people in the decontamination room... are thrown to the ground and caught on fire because they didn't shut the door in time. Or, well, two of them are. Malinda is still alive, but her safety hat is exploded off her head. She seals herself inside the decontamination chamber, and she and her husband (who is sitting safely behind the glass wall of his office where he was watching all this) stare at each other.

We end with:
Dr. Layland Leontiou cried out in horror, "Malinda!"
I'm not sure what's going on. Is she stuck in the decontamination room? If so, why? They can't possibly have only one exit. That's the worst decontamination room ever. Is she doomed? Is she going to burn alive? WHAT IS HAPPENING?

Well, we won't find out for awhile, because the next chapter is a flashback.

This is going to be fun, guys. It's meeting all my expectations so far.

(Chapter 2 can be read here.)

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

It Is Not Your Job To Expand My Comfort Zone

(This has been rolling around in my head for awhile. I'm still not entirely sure it's come out coherently - it's a very emotional subject for me and sometimes that can be hard to put clearly into words, much less edit - but it was really on my heart and mind today, so I wanted to publish it. In a year or so, I may look back on this and think, "What? What was I talking about?" And at that point maybe I can refine it a bit more to convey my thoughts. But for now I'll post it with this disclaimer.)

Introverts, especially more extreme introverts like myself, always have our fair share of people deciding we will be their pet project so they can fix us.

It's the people who say, "I am going to get you to come out of your shell this year."

The ones who say, "Come on, come to this party! You'll have so much fun! It'll be good for you! You need to get out more!"

Worst, it's the ones who push you into situations you never wanted to be a part of, and then when you complain that you're not comfortable, they say, "You need to lighten up!"

Let me say this. Yes, sometimes I do need to come out of my shell. Sometimes I do need to get out more. Sometimes I do need to lighten up.

Here's the thing: That is not your call.

I ranted a little bit about this trend awhile back when I talked about why I stopped watching the sitcom Go On. Sitcoms and movies have formed this completely awful view of friendships in which, if someone thinks they are your friend, they are entitled to drastically reorder your life in order to push you and challenge you into being a better person, especially when it comes to "getting out of your comfort zone" or "letting people into your life."

There are a few practical problems with this.

1. Sometimes the things you think are flaws... aren't. My analytical friends have been told to stop overthinking. My introverted friends have been told to get out more. My optimistic friends have been told to face reality. Are these things flaws in and of themselves? Absolutely not. Sometimes what you may think is a flaw is actually just a piece of their personality. While it may be different from the way you would do things, they and others may truly appreciate that aspect of their personality.

2. If I wasn't uncomfortable before, I sure am now. For many introverts, calling attention to the fact that you think they're not social enough will suddenly take all the fun out of the socializing they do partake in. I'll do it to make you happy (or get you to leave me alone, depending on how close we are) but it's not going to be effective or make me change my mind.

3. It can break the relationship. Deciding you're going to "fix" me and my introversion is essentially telling me the following: "You're a pretty good person, but you'd be a better one if you were more like me." It implies that I don't see my own flaws, am powerless to overcome them, and want desperately to be like you. It's extremely condescending to just self-appoint yourself my guru. It tells me that you think of yourself as the superior and me as the inferior (especially if you don't believe me if I tell you I'm fine or would rather not do this) . If I thought we were on pretty equal footing up until this point, this is a huge blow to the friendship.

So what can you do if you really want to help out an introvert? What if an acquaintance spends most of their time alone and you really genuinely feel they would be happier if they had people to hang out with on a regular basis?

The answer is simple: You make the offer and accept their decision.

If they are looking for a chance to get a little bit more social interaction but don't know quite how to make their way in, this gives them a good one.

If they say no - maybe they're overpeopled or have a lot of work to do or don't like parties or want to finish their book or don't feel comfortable enough with you yet or don't know the other people you'll be with or are just completely socially fulfilled and aren't looking for new friends - then you say OK, no problem, and that is your answer for today.

Imagine a comfort zone as a home. People who like routine, precision, and planning (many introverts) live in small, cozy cottage-sized comfort zones. Outgoing people who love going on adventures, meeting new people, and doing things they've never done before live in enormous mansions.

When you take it upon yourself to expand my comfort zone without my permission, it's like dragging me out of my house and pushing me into yours and then exclaiming, "Isn't this better?"

Well, I don't want to live in your house. I want to live in mine. You can invite me to visit yours any time, and sometimes I'll say yes. Sometimes I may even visit, find a room in your mansion that I like, and decide I want to expand my own home to make room for it, but in the end, my home is mine. My comfort zone is mine. And you're not allowed to kidnap me from it just for fun.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Top 5, Bottom 5: Woody Allen

I haven't done one of these in awhile, so let's devote one to my all-time favorite director! I have seen all but four of Allen's movies, and I debated holding onto this list until I finished those four, but, well, I needed a blog for today. So let's look at my favorite and least favorite Woody Allen movies. They're ranked out of 1945 movies on my Flickchart currently.

Top 5:
1. Annie Hall (1977, #4). This is not only my favorite Woody Allen flick, it's one of the four movies that keeps jumping in and out of my #1 of all time spot. I just feel happy and encouraged and refreshed after watching it. It's a perfect blend of sentimentality and cynicism.
2. The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985, #26). Jeff Daniels in this movie is just a great character. The movie has such an amazing premise, and even though the ending is... something of a twist, I think it's an incredible flick. Solid all the way through.
3. Midnight in Paris (2011, #75). Allen's first really brilliant film in a long, long time. It's smart and fun and charming and has that beautiful combination of fantasy and reality that I love in his movies. Plus, it has one of my favorite movie quotes ever: "That's what the present is. It's a little unsatisfying because life's a little unsatisfying."
4. Scoop (2006, #92). Scoop doesn't have a lot of love from critics, but it's my favorite just-silly Allen. I love the premise, I love Hugh Jackman in it, it has some of my favorite bits of dialogue ("I think the glass is half full, but with poison") and it's just all great fun as long as you don't think about it too much.
5. Bullets Over Broadway (1994, #139). This is the first one on my list I don't own and haven't yet watched multiple times. I should do that. The set up here is just great, and of all the people Allen's ever cast as himself in his movies, John Cusack is my favorite.

Bottom 5:
1. Celebrity (1998, #1731). I just didn't enjoy this one, not even a little bit. While John Cusack is my favorite Woody Allen acting substitute, Kenneth Branagh seems to just be doing an awkward impersonation of him all the way through and it's very awkward. The main theme didn't come through clearly, the jokes weren't funny... it was just long and uninteresting.
2. Whatever Works (2009, #1678). And Larry David's version of Woody Allen seems thoroughly unlikeable. Allen's movies always carry an air of discontent and snobbery, but while it makes me smile when Allen himself plays it, David's interpretation just makes me go, "That is a very angry man."
3. Sleeper (1973, #1590). Easily my least favorite of his early ones. The jokes all seem obvious and fairly dumb. I watched this with a fellow Woody Allen fan and neither one of us got the hype.
4. Stardust Memories (1980, #1502). This one isn't poorly made so much as paying homage to films I'd never seen, so I just didn't get most of it. I'll have to try it again sometime when I have more frame of reference.
5. A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy (1982, #1273). Note the jump in Flickchart ranking. We're out of the ones I don't like and into the ones I was just OK with. There's nothing really bad about this movie, but it never really made me laugh either.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Ask an Introvert: How Can I Be Included?

Hoping to make this an every-so-often recurring feature, where I answer introversion-related questions. Since I blog about introversion a lot, I frequently get texts and emails about introversion, from introverts, extroverts, and those right in the middle (commonly called ambiverts). Although obviously all introverts are different and I'm more on the extreme end on the spectrum, I thought it might be helpful to share my experience and encourage other introverts to chime in.

If you have an introversion-related question you'd like to hear my thoughts on, feel free to comment, email me, Facebook me, tweet me, or ask anonymously with this link.

Today's question, received via Facebook:

Have you ever found that people tend to overlook you for things, later commenting they didn't include you because they didn't think you were interested?

If so, any tips on avoiding such things?

I've been dealing with this for a while now, but it seems to be picking up a lot lately and while I do my best to poke my nose into things now and again and remind people that I exist and might just want to do that too, or would at least appreciate it if they could ASK rather than assume, it seems to be getting more and more frequent as of late.

I have absolutely run into that, and it is frustrating and can be difficult to fix.

For me, my solution has been to plan some things myself for a little bit. I'll take the initiative to invite a friend or a group of friends along to lunch or a movie night. Sometimes if you're not actually there, people forget you used to do stuff with their group. Which sucks. But doing something with them again, either individually or with the whole group, can sometimes make them think, "Oh yeah! Hanging out with this person is fun! And I guess she's not always opposed to being social! We should ask her to do stuff with more often!"

Other than that, there's not much you can do, other than what you've been doing. When you find out they did something without you, you can respond enthusiastically: "Oh, that sounds fun! If you do that again, let me know, I'd love to join you sometime if I can!"

If people do start inviting you regularly again, you might need to join in every so often even if you don't particularly want to. Sometimes I get on a "NO I WILL BE ALONE FOREVER NOW PLEASE" streak and will miss like 10 social engagements in a row, and then people *do* stop inviting me because it seems like all I ever say is no. So if it's just that I'm not really feeling it, rather than like... I'm completely overwhelmed by people and want to curl up and die, I'll go along to a couple of those, just to make sure it's clear that I still want to be friends and part of the group.

Fellow introverts - any other tips?

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

What I've Read So Far This Year

So we're about halfway through the year, and I've managed to read a couple books! I'm not as avid a reader as I am a movie watcher, so I'm always delighted when I get to read something. My Kindle, which I got as a birthday gift last year, has been a huge help with this. It's easy to take it with me on trips or walks and know that I don't have to pace myself like I do when I'm traveling and I only have one book and if I finish it too fast I'll have nothing else to read.

Here are the 14 books I've read so far this year, in order of how much I liked them:

4 Stars

Last Chance to See by Douglas Adams. I'd never have expected Douglas Adams to write about endangered species and how he worked to help save them, but it's no surprise at all that since he did write about it, the book's really funny. Definitely worth the read.

Catch Me If You Can by Frank W. Abagnale. Loved the movie, loved the book. It covers even more ground than the movie does. Abagnale's story is truly a remarkable one.

Damaged by Melody Carlson. Carlson has always been able to capture the thought processes of teenage girls in a way that most writers of Christian young adult fiction just can't do. While the story's a little cheesy in its plot, the characters and the way it plays out ring very true.

A Year of Biblical Womanhood by Rachel Held Evans. I love Rachel Held Evans a lot and have incredible respect for her, and I really liked this thoughtful examination of Biblical womanhood. She examines the issue with humor while still taking the messages behind it seriously.

3 Stars

Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris. Not quite as hilarious as I'd been led to believe, although the sections focused on learning and speaking French were extremely funny. Still an entertaining read.

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick. I need to read more by this guy. Reading this book made me interested in rewatching Blade Runner to see if I like it better the second time around.

Choke by Chuck Palahniuk. Although the main character is thoroughly unpleasant, the plot is intriguing, and the ending was satisfying.

What We Talk About When We Talk About God by Rob Bell. This book feels almost like a primer to Rob Bell's theology. He doesn't really say anything new here that he hasn't already said in Velvet Elvis or his Everything Is Spiritual DVD, but it's good, interesting stuff here just as it was there. I might recommend this as a first read to anyone who's not super familiar with Bell but wants to know what he's about.

I'll Be In My Room by C. Black. A tiny e-pamphlet geared toward parents and teachers of introverted children. Lots and lots of practical suggestions. I'd definitely recommend it for people wanting to learn how to better connect with introverts.

2 Stars

Haunted by Chuck Palahniuk. When I first read House by Ted Dekker and Frank Peretti, I felt like the entire book was a contest between the two to see who could be grosser. This book feels like Palahniuk having that contest with himself. Although a couple of the stories are really interesting, his vivid imagery and writing style is far too overwhelming for me in this book, and there were several stories I ended up skimming because they made me a little nauseous.

Mr. Monster by Dan Wells. Well, this was disappointing. I Am Not a Serial Killer was one of my very favorite books of last year, and this sequel just... doesn't do anything. It takes the exact same story and premise of the first book and tells basically the same story again, with nothing new added to the character or his development. The first one was wildly original and kept me reading the whole way through, but I guess he ran out of new places to go with this one.

1 Star

Shadow and Claw by Gene Wolfe. I'm not even convinced I can say I read this one, given how heavily I skimmed the last 100 pages or so. MOST BORING BOOK EVER. And oh my gosh it's SO LONG. And the characters are SO UNINTERESTING.

If Loving You Is Wrong by Gregg Olsen. I have a weird love for sleazy true crime books... but they have to at least be competently written. This was not.

The Quest For Forgiveness by J.L. Rothdiener. 1 star is too generous for this book. If I could give it no stars on Goodreads, I would. This is quite possibly the worst book I have ever read. And, unlike above, where my exclamation of "MOST BORING BOOK EVER" was hyperbolic, this is not. I seriously can't think of a more poorly-written book. It's so awful, I can't even begin to discuss it here. If you want to read my scathing review on Goodreads, it can be found here, while my Amazon review is here. I don't usually review much at either site, but I had to do something to counter the bizarre amount of 5-star reviews it got on both.

What books should I read the rest of the year? What have you been reading?

Monday, June 17, 2013

Like vs. Respect

A while back, I was asked if I liked a certain person I don't know very well. I thought about it, and responded, "I like them, but I don't respect them." For me, there is a definite difference.

It is much harder for someone to earn my respect than my like. I like just about everybody, but I definitely don't respect everybody. My respect is reserved for people who I feel are above me in terms of their character or their accomplishments. Liking people is about enjoying their company, respecting someone is about wanting to be like them. The two don't go hand in hand. I like some people I don't respect, and I respect some I don't particularly like.

(Quick disclaimer: This is not referring to the basic respect I should give people on the basis that they are human, or treating people with dignity and respect as a general rule. That's not what I mean. This is the kind of situation where I would think of someone and say, "I have a lot of respect for them.")

What makes me respect someone? These are a few qualities that will always earn my respect:
  • The willingness to admit when you are wrong. This is a biggie for me, and I respect it in others even more because I have trouble with this myself. Someone who can admit when they're wrong (and, further, someone who's even willing to consider they might be wrong even if they're not sure), is someone I have a lot of respect for.
  • Thoughtfulness. Going out of your way to make others feel welcome, safe, and loved is a huge plus.
  • Genuine listening. If I can have a conversation with someone and feel like they are actually listening to me and trying to understand me, it doesn't matter if we agree or disagree at the end, I will respect them.
  • A willingness to think well of others. This doesn't mean being stupid or oblivious if someone's being a genuinely awful person, but I have great respect for people who think well of the people around them until proven otherwise. (It was one of the things that first drew me to my fiance.)
Really, these all connect for me. I think, really, most of them have a common thread: humility. A person who is humble can admit when they are wrong, and graciously puts others ahead of themselves, and considers other people's thoughts and opinions as important as their own, and doesn't jump to assumptions that others are bad people.

Those are the people I emulate. They are the people I try to learn from. They are the people I respect. I can only hope that some day I will be able to be like them.

What qualities make you respect people the most?

Friday, June 14, 2013

Who Should Be the Twelfth Doctor?

It was announced a few weeks ago that Matt Smith would be leaving Doctor Who after this year's Christmas special, and ever since then rumors have been flying about who will take over. I was personally not a fan of Matt Smith as the Doctor (someday I'll post a long blog explaining why), so I'm interested in seeing which direction the show goes now.

I don't have any ideas of my own, but I have taken to the Internet to find a few theories that I could be a fan of. I've chosen my favorite Internet-chosen nominees here, plus a few friends toss in their input as well.

Andrew Garfield - OK, a part of me wants to yell "OH MY GOSH YES" just on the basis of loving Andrew Garfield with all my heart, but it'd definitely be a unique take on the character, as my favorite Andrew is when he's awkward and nervous, neither of which are characteristics that particularly describe the Doctor. Well, awkward maybe. He certainly would be a snugglier Doctor than Matt Smith has been. (Er, not that that's a good reason to choose him.)

Hugh Laurie - A popular Internet favorite, I can get behind this for two reasons: 1) Hugh Laurie is awesome and can do anything, and 2) I keep thinking of his early British comedy work and thinking, "That could totally translate into Doctordom." I like my Doctors with a little bit of angst as well, and he played another angsty doctor for eight years, so we know he can do that. The big concern is I don't know if people would be able to see him as anything but House.

Cillian Murphy - OK. Here's the thing. I hate Cillian Murphy, but it's because he has Dead Soulless Eyes. So if they pick Cillian Murphy, and he does the same creepy quasi-evil things Matt Smith has been doing his whole run, it'll be more obvious that he's morphing into a bad guy, because he has Dead Soulless Eyes. And I still really want to see the Doctor morph into a bad guy. Like all the way. That would be fun.

Danny Pudi - Totally not a serious answer, but one blogger suggested him with Donald Glover as his companion, and I'm pretty sure I would watch that show forever and ever.

Benedict Cumberbatch - I know, I know, he's not going to. But I still think it would be awesome.

Amy Acker - This is my really the only one I've liked of all the suggestions for a female Doctor. Fred from Angel was pretty much a more insecure version of the Doctor anyway. Amp that up a bit and it'd be awesome. Oh, and while you're at it, put Joss Whedon in charge because WHY IS HE NOT IN CHARGE OF ALL THE TV SHOWS? Oh, wait. Because not everybody likes all the characters to die and be sad. And he kind of does that.

Alan Tudyk - While we're listing Whedony people, I love this suggestion. I have not yet finished Firefly (it's cowboys in space, and not even Joss can make that interesting to me), but I really love him in a lot of other things I've seen, especially Dollhouse. He's capable of being both super funny and super intense.

John Cleese - My favorite of the "let's make the Doctor regenerate old!" suggestions. I mean, who wouldn't want to watch a show where John Cleese traveled through space?

Alan Cumming - Oh my gosh, I love this one. Heh. I have a feeling he'd be a little more... flamboyant and showy than the previous Doctors, but he's certainly got the quirkiness down, and he's definitely got some acting chops that he could bring to the role.

Richard Ayoade - I mention him mostly because I considered him on my own for the role at first, then thought, "Nah," only to find that there's apparently a pretty big section of the Internet that is really rooting for him. I'm not sure he could pull off the depth needed for any serious episodes, but I've only seen him in comedies, so I don't really know.

I also asked my friends on Facebook to weigh in, and here were some of their suggestions:

"James McAvoy! Because James McAvoy! Also Mr. Tumnus, Charles Xavior, and British. Enough said." --Aimee

"I need someone I have NEVER seen before. That way I won't have any predispositions to what he (or as I've heard rumors a possible SHE) will bring to the character. And I won't see things and think 'Oh that's House!' Or whoever." --Amanda

"I'd probably cast my vote for Benedict Cumberbatch. He's a phenomenal actor. Even though in 'Star Trek' and 'Sherlock' he plays more stoic characters, there are flashes of Who-ish exuberance and excitement that can be seen in his portrayal of Sherlock." --Daniel

"I'm a fan of him being a mostly nobody though. I mean he can have done somethings... but not a celebrity. I would love to see Benedict come in as a villain at some point but not the doctor. Benedict would make a great Master." --Erika

"I'm sticking to my guns. Gordon Ramsey. Done." --Mike

"I NEED someone relatively unknown for all the aforementioned reasons. Cumberbatch would be a spectacular villain and could probably pull off the Doctor wonderfully, but he isn't the Doctor." --Benjamin

"I say, make it a reality series and not actually tell someone they're the new Doctor until filming starts. Script everything but the Doctor and make it the most elaborate 'Which Way Will You Choose?' of all time." --Travis

"I'm also hoping for someone unknown. And I'd be really excited to see them cast a brown-skinned dude. (I've heard a lot of people suggest Richard Ayoade, who I haven't seen in anything, but I approve based on his pictures and resume!) And I'd be happy to see them go back to slightly older, like Eccleston's age. But contradicting all of that, I have a secret wacky desire to see Thomas Sangster play the Doctor... I had the idea when he was playing little Timothy in Human Nature, and said 'Hey, if they take this reverse-aging trend to extremes, clearly Sangster should play the Doctor at some face, since he has that crazy young face and crazy old eyes.' He'd be short on the manic and long on the mysterious and subtle, which would be an interesting change of pace for the modern era. But he's also busy with Game of Thrones right now, so that's probably out." --Virginia

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The First 100 Movies of 2013

Back in 2011, I briefly put together some stats on the first 100 movies I saw that year. I actually passed this milestone at the end of April this year and wanted to pull together a stats blog then, but I just never got around to it. So here we go. What did I watch in the first 100 new movies of the year?

How many did I watch per star rating?
0.5 stars - 3
1 star - 8
1.5 stars - 6
2 stars - 10
2.5 stars - 13
3 stars - 13
3.5 stars - 20
4 stars - 24
4.5 stars - 4
5 stars - 0

I did see a few duds, but overall I've seen far more decent and well-liked films than bad ones this month. Yay!

How many per month?
January - 27
February - 33
March - 24
April - 16

February was a crazy movie month this year. I was doing a movie challenge where I tried to watch a top unseen romance movie from Flickchart every day, so that was 28 movies right there, plus every Redbox movie I wanted to see came out that month.

How many per decade?
1920s - 1
1930s - 2
1940s - 10
1950s - 6
1960s - 6
1970s - 6
1980s - 7
1990s - 11
2000s - 11
2010s - 40

Holy cow. Almost half of the movies I watched were from the last 3 years. I guess that's what happens when you make lots and lots of Redbox trips. Aside from the sudden spike of 10 movies from the 1940s, there's a lovely pattern to this. If only I had seen one fewer movie from the 1980s...

The Movies I Finally Saw That Everyone Says I Should Have Seen Already
Chasing Amy
There's Something About Mary
Top Gun
The 40-Year-Old Virgin
La strada
Fast Times At Ridgemont High
The Lady Vanishes

Monday, June 10, 2013

Some Blog Spam

Guys, I've been getting some seriously entertaining blog spam.

All comments are emailed to me for approval these days, and it's a good thing, because otherwise you would be seeing these nonsense comments all over the place. Some of these have entertained me so much that I've been saving them. I figured today I'd share some of my favorite comments.

They all followed the same basic format - a comment that really has very little to do with the blog, followed by a link and an invitation to go to their website. (Ha.) Sometimes the comments will be boring generic things like, "This was a great site! You should look at mine!" And other times they will be so, so, so much more entertaining.

(on Chats From the Past)
You really make it seem so easy with your presentation but I find this topic to be actually something which I think I would never understand. It seems too complex and extremely broad for me. I am looking forward for your next post, I will try to get the hang of it!

Sarah L. and I just completely stumped this person with our complicated chatting procedure. I hope they were able to get the hang of my too complex and extremely broad blog.

(on Chats From the Past)
At this moment I am going away to do my breakfast, afterward having my breakfast coming again to read further news.

All this unnecessary information makes it feel like a Twitter feed.

"Reading this blog"
"Gonna go eat breakfast"
"K, finished breakfast, reading this blog again"

(on My Top 6 Happiest Movies of All Time)
Thanks for sharing your thoughts about oakley sunglasses sale. Regards

How badly would someone have to misread that blog to think I was writing about a sunglasses sale?

(on Top 5, Bottom 5: Johnny Depp)
I simply couldn't depart your website prior to suggesting that I extremely enjoyed the usual info a person provide to your guests? Is gonna be back frequently in order to check up on new posts

But after she suggested that she extremely enjoyed the usual info a person provide to my guests, then she could depart.

I will immediately snatch your rss feed as I can not to find your email subscription hyperlink or e-newsletter service. Do you've any? Please let me know in order that I could subscribe. Thanks. 

Oh, no, I'ven't an e-newsletter service! Clearly missing out on a demographic here.

I'm gone to tell my little brother, that he should also visit this webpage on regular basis to get updated from latest news update.

If her brother is hoping to get his news by viewing my list of funny YouTube videos, he is going to be incredibly misinformed.

It's remarkable to pay a visit this web site and reading the views of all friends about this article, while I am also keen of getting experience.

So, um. This person's friends have all expressed their views on my favorite showtunes #30-21, and this person wants to get experience... expressing their views on showtunes as well?

I was suggested this blog by my cousin. I'm not sure whether this post is written by him as no one else know such detailed about my trouble. You are amazing! Thanks!

I can only assume this is the person who was searching for all those things, and they were dismayed that they'd never gotten any answers. Well, you're welcome.

With the Dub turbo 2.0, the possibilities are endless. All PC based vent has flourished the very industry with his unlimited uses.

I love trying to come up with possible connections to the original post. I guess with the Dub turbo 2.0, the funniest movies I know are even funnier.

Majority of parents are justifiably quite sad when it comes to their kid states off to school. Most related the time, they will don't think prior to this responding anything.

I was with this spammer until they suddenly lost track of all of the English.

It's too bad, though, that there aren't similar holes on the opposite end.


Carrots can assist make your stools softer and additionally larger. Study any organizations you're member of when it comes to group deals.

And we close this blog with two pieces of helpful advice from this spam.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Movies I Saw In May

Apparently I'm staying pretty consistent these days, because I saw 16 new movies in April and then 16 more in May. In order from best to worst, this is what I watched last month.

New Movies (16)

Silver Linings Playbook (2012) - Easily my favorite of the 7 Best Picture nominees I've seen so far, and the only time I've ever really liked Jennifer Lawrence.

Open Your Eyes (1997) - It's darker and uglier than Vanilla Sky, so I don't like it as much, but it's still an incredibly good story.

The Thing (1982) - Completely effective as a horror movie, though I'm not sure I like the ending.

High and Low (1963) - While many foreign films are inaccessible and hard to follow, Kurosawa always manages to create characters that are tremendously easy to relate to. That remains true even in a mystery movie like this.

Men in Black 3 (2012) - I was totally surprised by how much I enjoyed this. A much smarter movie than I anticipated. And Michael Stuhlbarg is awesome.

Star Trek Into Darkness (2013) - This movie is pretty fun by itself, but Benedict made it way more fun.

The Devil's Backbone (2001) - Definitely should be seen by fans of Pan's Labyrinth. It has the same combination of fantasy and dark, ugly realism.

John Dies at the End (2012) - I really liked it about 2/3 of the way through, and then it completely lost its way. I feel like I might like it a little better if I rewatched it knowing what to expect, though.

Cypher (2002) - Completely nonsensical, but enjoyable all the same. I have a fondness for goofy sci-fi, so if you don't, you probably won't like it.

The Avengers (2012) - I liked it in portions, but it felt too scattered, like I was watching five different movies.

The Year Without a Santa Claus (1974) - I never grew up with this, so I'm sure I'm missing out on some nostalgia, but I thought it was fine. Pretty cute.

The Words (2012) - Obviously trying to make a point, but it's too unfocused to really make it work.

Nestor, the Long-Eared Christmas Donkey (1977) - A darker, more disturbing, more nonsensical version of the Rudolph story. I really feel like not a lot of thought went into this one.

Basic Instinct (1992) - Apparently people love this. I thought the writing was amateur, the acting weird, and the sex scenes totally gratuitous in that context.

Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance (2011) - THIS MOVIE MAKES NO SENSE.


Rewatches (4)

Vanilla Sky (2001) - Rewatched with the siblings. I still freaking love this movie. The images from it remain seared into my head. In a positive way. So so so so so good. This one keeps rising up my list of favorites.

Back to the Future (1985) & Back the Future 2 (1989) - Rewatched with Jacob. These may have to go onto my "feel good movies" list. They always make me so happy.

The Blair Witch Project (1999) - Rewatched with Jacob. Not scary so much as just a really, really good story with surprisingly realistic acting.

What have you seen lately? Any of these? Disagree with any of my thoughts on them?

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Top 100 Showtunes: Complete List

In case you wanted to see the whole list all the way through:

100. Wonderland - Through the Looking Glass
99. Wicked - I'm Not That Girl
98. Songs for a New World - Just One Step
97. Young Frankenstein - Transylvania Mania
96. Legally Blonde - Legally Blonde
95. Show Boat - Ol' Man River
94. Wonderland - One Knight
93. Striking 12 - Screwed-Up People Make Great Art
92. john & jen - Bye Room
91. 13 - All Hail the Brain/Terminal Illness
90. Legally Blonde - So Much Better
89. Wicked - Defying Gravity
88. Sunset Boulevard - Sunset Boulevard
87. Parade - How Can I Call This Home
86. The Music Man - Ya Got Trouble
85. The Last Five Years - A Miracle Would Happen
84. Jesus Christ Superstar - I Don't Know How to Love Him
83. Avenue Q - It Sucks To Be Me
82. Children of Eden - Stranger to the Rain
81. Long Story Short - Fragile As Love
80. The Book of Mormon - Baptize Me
79. Seussical - How Lucky You Are
78. The Producers - I Wanna Be a Producer
77. Zanna, Don't! - Do You Know What It's Like
76. Jekyll and Hyde - A New Life
75. Snoopy!! - Don't Be Anything Less
74. Seussical - Notice Me, Horton
73. Young Frankenstein - Together Again
72. Company - Getting Married Today
71. Young Frankenstein - The Brain
70. City of Angels - What You Don't Know About Women
69. Guys and Dolls - Adelaide's Lament
68. Aida - Elaborate Lives
67. Seussical - Alone in the Universe
66. tick…Tick…BOOM! - Johnny Can't Decide
65. Cyrano de Bergerac - Bring Me Giants
64. Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat - Close Every Door
63. Follies - Losing My Mind
62. The Book of Mormon - Turn It Off
61. Godspell - All For the Best
60. Striking 12 - The Sales Pitch
59. The Full Monty - Big-Ass Rock
58. Songs for a New World - I'd Give It All For You
57. The Full Monty - Scrap
56. Sleeping Beauty Wakes - I Dare Say I'm In Love
55. Notre Dame de Paris - Belle
54. The Wedding Singer - Single
53. High Fidelity - Nine Percent Chance
52. Aida - Easy As Life
51. Parade - Come Up to My Office
50. Rent - I'll Cover You
49. Guys and Dolls - Sit Down You're Rockin' the Boat
48. West Side Story - Somewhere
47. Parade - All the Wasted Time
46. Beauty and the Beast - If I Can't Love Her
45. Billy Elliot - Electricity
44. Songs for a New World - On the Deck of a Spanish Sailing Ship, 1492
43. A Little Night Music - Send in the Clowns
42. Rent - Take Me or Leave Me
41. The Last Five Years - A Summer in Ohio
40. Sleeping Beauty Wakes - Uninvited
39. Company - The Ladies Who Lunch
38. Hairspray - You Can't Stop the Beat
37. Assassins - Everybody's Got the Right (Reprise)
36. Rent - La Vie Boheme
35. Sleeping Beauty Wakes - Drifting
34. Les Miserables - On My Own
33. Dreamgirls - And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going
32. The Book of Mormon - I Believe
31. Songs for a New World - Stars and the Moon
30. Chicago - Mr. Cellophane
29. Chess - Pity the Child
28. Striking 12 - Fine, Fine, Fine
27. Long Story Short - Still Love
26. Avenue Q - For Now
25. Company - Marry Me a Little
24. My Fair Lady - On the Street Where You Live
23. Assassins - Unworthy of Your Love
22. Avenue Q - Everyone's a Little Bit Racist
21. Avenue Q - Fantasies Come True
20. Little Shop of Horrors - Suddenly Seymour
19. Jekyll and Hyde - This is the Moment
18. Cats - Memory
17. Dirty Rotten Scoundrels - Love Is My Legs
16. Long Story Short - Letting Go
15. Dirty Rotten Scoundrels - Great Big Stuff
14. The Last Five Years - Nobody Needs to Know
13. I Love You Because - I Love You Because
12. Jesus Christ Superstar - Gethsemane
11. A New Brain - I Feel So Much Spring
10. Godspell - On the Willows
9. Avenue Q - Schadenfreude
8. Children of Eden - The Spark of Creation
7. Man of La Mancha - The Impossible Dream
6. 13 - A Little More Homework
5. Rent - Will I?
4. The Phantom of the Opera - The Music of the Night
3. Les Miserables - Stars
2. Company - Being Alive
1. The Last Five Years - Shiksa Goddess

And, in case that just wasn't enough for you, here are 20 more that just missed the cut:
Avenue Q - If You Were Gay
Bat Boy - Comfort and Joy
The Book of Mormon - Sal Tlay Ka Siti
Children of Eden - Let There Be
City of Angels - Lost and Found
Evil Dead - It's Time
In the Heights - Sunrise
Into the Woods - Giants in the Sky
The Last Five Years - See I'm Smiling
Les Miserables - Do You Hear the People Sing?
Miss Saigon - The Last Night of the World
The Music Man - Marian the Librarian
The Phantom of the Opera - The Point of No Return
Rent - I'll Cover You (Reprise)
Sleeping Beauty Wakes - Everything Changes But You
Snoopy!! - The Great Writer
Songs for a New World - Surabaya-Santa
Sunday in the Park With George - Putting It Together
Sweeney Todd - Epiphany
tick…Tick…BOOM! - Therapy

Monday, June 3, 2013

Top 100 Showtunes: 10-1

My apologies for not posting anything on Friday. I had an arthritis flare-up and couldn't type much of anything. Here, finally, are the very last 10 songs in my list of Top 100 Showtunes of All Time.

#10. "On the Willows" from Godspell. I like my religious music tinged with a dose of melancholy, and that's absolutely the case here. The song is sung as Jesus is saying goodbye to his disciples shortly before his death. It's a truly touching scene and a hauntingly beautiful song. The lyrics are taken straight out of Psalm 137, a lament of deep loss. There are a lot of video versions floating around online, but most of them had icky sound, so I just went ahead and got a Broadway revival cast version. So lovely, so sad, so beautiful.

#9. "Schadenfreude" from Avenue Q. And this is not lovely or sad or beautiful. It's just fun. It's incredibly satisfying to sing along to on a bad day, and I love how cheerfully the song accepts that "the world needs people like you and me who've been knocked around by fate / 'cause when people see us, they don't want to be us, and that makes them feel great!" It's hands down my favorite song from Avenue Q, which has had many, many songs in this list so far and many others that I really enjoy. This particular video syncs a live bootleg video with the cast recording audio, letting you both get a sense of the visuals of the song and hear the words clearly.

#8. "The Spark of Creation" from Children of Eden. When I first discovered this song, I fell completely in love with it. Children of Eden has since become one of my favorite shows, but this song especially stays at the top of the list. It perfectly encapsulates my worldview on how art and faith coincide. The song is sung by the Biblical Eve and is a glorious tribute to how creating things is a reflection of God's creative spirit. If I could choose a single song to represent who I am, it would be this one.

#7. "The Impossible Dream" from Man of La Mancha. There's something almost unbearably beautiful about this sentiment, to me, and about the whole story of Don Quixote. It's incredible and noble and argues that fighting for justice and righting wrongs is worth striving for, even when it cannot be fully achieved. The best part here is that it's not hyperbole, Don Quixote fully believes it, and is entirely "willing to march into hell for a heavenly cause." The song may be overused now as an inspirational piece, but in the context of the original show, I think it really is one of the most inspirational showtunes of all time.

#6. "A Little More Homework to Do" from 13. 13 is not one of Jason Robert Brown's most well-loved classics. I think it's a fantastic show, but, yes, a lot of the songs are a little younger, a little less substantial, than some of his other work. But this little gem is, in my opinion, one of the best songs JRB's ever, ever written. It does an incredible job of capturing the confusion and uncertainty of growing up, whether just entering adolescence as these kids are, or finishing high school, or finishing college and having to really-for-real-now become an adult. The melody is gorgeous, the lyrics are perfect, and it always manages to get to me on an emotional level.

#5. "Will I?" from Rent. Sometimes the most powerful songs are the ones with the fewest lyrics. This song has a total of fifteen words, repeated over and over again, but watching the clip as I prepared to write about it, I began tearing up. I think this cry of, "Will I lose my dignity? Will someone care?" is in a lot of people's hearts, and as the characters fill the stage, all hoping the same thing, the song grows and grows until it's a chorus of hurting people's prayers.

#4. "The Music of the Night" from The Phantom of the Opera. This used to be my #1 favorite showtune, back in high school when I was pretty much obsessed with this show. It has dropped to #4, but I still think it's absolutely gorgeous. I sorted through several versions to find the one I wanted to showcase, but I ended up going back to one of my favorites, the great Hugh Panaro. He puts a great deal of tenderness into the song, truly luring Christine and the listener in to the beauty of the music. It's gorgeous, it's seductive, it's one of my favorite songs to this day.

#3. "Stars" from Les Miserables. Oh, Russell Crowe, I am never going to forgive you for ruining this, one of the most beautiful showtunes ever written. (Just like Gerard Butler will never be forgiven for ruining my #4.) I have loved this song from when I first started loving Les Mis. It's the moment when we finally see a human side to Javert. We see a little bit what makes him tick, and we see his passion and dedication, and suddenly he's not so fully a villain. My favorite Javert, Philip Quast, does an incredible job in this clip of really bringing life into the character and making this song sound gorgeous.

#2. "Being Alive" from Company. I love this song. I love everything about it. I think it is a perfect, perfect ending to the show, especially in contrast to the act one closer, Marry Me a Little (also on my list). It starts off as a list of reasons not to get married ("someone to crowd you with love, someone to force you to care") and, as it goes on, Bobby realizes that he really genuinely wants someone to break into his life, even if it means sacrifice and giving up his independence if it means that someone can help "make [him] aware of being alive." I've seen three different versions of this musical, and Raul Esparza does by far the best rendition of this song.

#1. "Shiksa Goddess" from The Last 5 Years. If you've been a good friend of mine at any point in the last, oh, probably seven years or so, then you've probably heard this song. Because I make everyone listen to it. Because it is awesome. To be honest, though, I'm not sure what I love about it so much, that is so consistently ends up at the top of my list. Its music is fascinating to listen to (sometimes I try to tune Norbert out - hard as that may be - to just hear the piano because it sounds so cool). It's infectiously happy. The lyrics are funny and honest and cute. It's my favorite Broadway love song, and it's my favorite Broadway song, period, and it's probably not going anywhere, guys. I've embedded the live version of the song, but you really should have a chance to really hear the lyrics, so check out this audio-only clip from the cast recording as well.

And that's it, folks. That's the end of the list. We made it all the way from #100 to #1, and hopefully any of you who have been actually reading this have found a couple of new ones you liked as well. Now I have to figure out what else I'm going to be blogging about this month. Hmm.