Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Top 5, Bottom 5: Alien Invasion Movies

Last week I watched my 20th political drama, and this week, with Ender's Game, I watched my 20th alien invasion movie. So, out of those 20, here are my top 5 and my bottom 5, out of 2118 movies in my Flickchart at the time I wrote this.

Top 5
1. The World's End (2013, #222). This is also one of my top 5 films of 2013, and probably my favorite of the Cornetto Trilogy. A wildly funny take on the idea of an alien invasion.
2. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956, #259). Old horror movies can feel very dated, so I was surprised at how tense this movie was when I first watched it. It does a great job of building the suspense.
3. The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951, #320). This one does seem very dated, but I grew up on it and still really enjoy it. The characters are interesting and the story is a good one.
4. Mars Attacks! (1996, #460). Totally flips around the trope of well-meaning aliens that America gets way too aggressive about. Every time the aliens promise it'll be different and then just start gleefully shooting everyone for no reason, I start laughing.
5. Signs (2002, #709). Though this movie really does kind of fall apart once the aliens are seen, I think the build-up throughout creates a nice atmosphere and I enjoy the religious themes explored.

Bottom 5
5. Chicken Little (2005, #1740). A lame, unfunny attempt at retelling a kids' story.
4. Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (1964, #1920). Not nearly ridiculous enough to enjoy on its own as a so-bad-it's-awesome movie. Thank goodness for MST3K.
3. Men in Black II (2002, #2004). I enjoy the first and third in this series, but this second one is painfully awful with absolutely no jokes that work.
2. Prince of Space (1959, #2089). This is probably unfairly low, as I seem to remember one or two unintentionally funny moments, but mostly I just remember it being boring and bad.
1. This Island Earth (1955, #2092). Also probably unfairly low, but the fact that I can hardly remember anything about it certainly doesn't speak in its favor.

How about you guys? What are your favorites and least favorites?

Monday, April 28, 2014

How to Find Other Introverts

While browsing an introversion-related subreddit the other day, I found a post by someone who was frustrated that they couldn't seem to find any people who were introverted to be friends with. Everyone they met liked to go out and party all the time, and they just wanted a friend who preferred to sit in drinking coffee and reading a book on Friday nights.

I completely sympathize. It can be hard for introverts to meet other introverts, much less to recognize them as such, and when it seems like everyone you meet likes to do big social extroverted things all the time, it can feel very lonely.

So I figured I'd offer up some suggestions to the introvert world at large.

1. Remember, not all introverts look like introverts.

Some introverts may enjoy big social gatherings in small doses, or they learn to fake it. Not every introvert spends all their time in public staring at their phone or reading a book. You may be meeting introverts all the time and you just don't know it. To find an introvert in a crowd, try striking up one-on-one conversations -- an introvert is more likely to direct all their attention to one person for a long period of time, while someone more extroverted will probably still love talking to you but will include others in the conversation or move on to mingle with someone else.

Facebook has actually been the most helpful tool for me. Posting about introversion and about how much I love getting alone time after a socially busy week has opened up the floor for others to chime in with, "Me too!" and "I know what you mean!" There are friends I honestly had no idea were introverts until they responded to one of these posts.

2. Look for the outliers.

While not all shy people are introverts and not all boisterous people are extroverts, those traits do often go together. Keep an eye out for the people in your circle of acquaintances who seem to distance themselves a little bit from groups -- the ones who usually eat alone in the cafeteria, the ones who leave the party early, the ones who only occasionally goes to the movies with everyone.

3. Pursue introvert-friendly hobbies (socially).

This is essentially saying that if you want to find somebody who hates hanging out at parties like you do, you're probably not going to find them at a party. If most of your social activities are you being dragged along reluctantly to places you don't want to be, you're going to be in the minority. Find something you enjoy that may be a little bit more introverted and see if there's a way to expand that to be a little bit social. Join a book club, take a cooking class, find a Facebook group for local movie enthusiasts. This way, even if the people you meet aren't super introverted, you know that you at least share some common interests, and if you say, "I don't feel like going out. Let's just Redbox a movie and hang out at my place," you know this is something they might enjoy.

Any thoughts from you guys? What are your tips and ideas on where to find and connect with introverts?

Friday, April 25, 2014

The Quest for Skye: Chapter 38

Recap: SKYE IS DEAD. FINALLY. Now we'll see what happens in the last two chapters. We are so, so, so very nearly done with this book, guys.

This chapter opens with Morgan creeping into Skye's bedroom to look around at the thing she left behind.
He noticed a scrapbook on the nightstand. He read the title, My Favoritest Cruise. 
“Favoritest.” He smiled. “I can’t even say it like she did.”
Guys, once again, she's supposed to be ELEVEN, not five. Most of the ten- or eleven-year-olds I know are long past "favoritest."
Then he came to the photo of Tammy, Skye , and himself— the night she surprised them at their table. Tammy’s makeup was smeared from her laughter.
...I guess we're supposed to assume that Tammy laughed so much she cried? Or maybe she tried to put on makeup while laughing and then, instead of fixing it, went to dinner? Otherwise, how is laughing smearing her makeup? I mean, I don't wear makeup that often, so maybe I've just never laughed quite hard enough while wearing makeup to smear it, but I can't even figure out how that would work. Any of my makeup-wearing friends want to chime in on this one?

Suddenly, Morgan hears a beeping noise. He discovers Skye's telescope has turned itself on and is beeping at him. He finds a note next to the telescope saying that the very last time Skye's comet will ever be visible with her telescope is that night, so Skye has programmed the telescope to, uh, I guess beep and turn on and go to the right coordinates at that time. (Is this something fancy telescopes do? I feel like an alarm is a thoroughly useless add-on to a telescope, but I'm sure it's possible. I pose this question especially to my stargazing friend Mike, who might actually know the answer to this.)
While he was staring at the screen, Isaura disappeared into the heavens, exactly as the letter said it would, just like his precious Skye. . . . He took a deep breath, and reached for the shutoff switch turning off the telescope. The monitor turned black.
Also, do telescopes typically have monitors and screens? To, I dunno, save you all the trouble of actually looking through the little holes? Is this an actual thing or is Rothdiener confusing telescopes with computers? He does really like screens. He was all invested in Leontious' clinic having three of them that performed extremely specific tasks.

The next scene is Skye's funeral. It's a pretty generic scene that isn't too terrible, because, oddly enough, they gush slightly less over her after her death than she did before. Although Morgan does include this in his eulogy:
“She never said an unkind word about anyone.”
He's clearly forgotten her merciless mocking of his genuine fear of heights and water.
“And if we ever need her, or want to talk with her—” Morgan’s voice quivered, “Just reach toward the sky, because that’s where she’ll be.” 
Trembling, Morgan released Tammy’s hand, and extended his arms toward the sky. Tammy followed, and then Zack and Kim. Within seconds, almost all hands on that island were raised in honor of the very special girl who loved everyone she met.

Although, once again, it is SLIGHTLY more appropriate and less creepy here because you're allowed to be extremely sentimental and nostalgic and do memorable gestures like this at a funeral. It would just be nicer if Skye's life itself, and this moment in her life particularly, wasn't so very creepy.

The next day, Morgan receives an envelope in the mail from Today's Photography, where Wheelchair Lady's photo of Morgan and Skye kissing the dolphins has won first prize in their photography contest, and Skye has won $10,000 for it. Morgan is all, "Aww," but, of course, it doesn't even cross his mind that, um, Wheelchair Lady should have that money. Way to go, Skye and Morgan, stealing credit and money and fame from an elderly lady in a wheelchair when you are pretty much millionaires now. You people are so noble and awesome and not disgusting at all. Clearly Jesus condones this, so I will now go and take all the art made by my friends and sell it as being made by me. I'll never have to work again!

(Also, $10,000 is a LOT of money for a photography contest. A LOT.)

Zoom ahead six months, where it's time for the cruise again. Zack is cruise director now, because apparently we're continuing the trend of giving him jobs to do that he is in no way qualified for. Kim is pregnant, so Zack got an office job with the cruise line and they're going to settle down in Florida and she's going to be a stay-at-home mom, so that's nice.
Walking through the atrium, Morgan’s eyes were captured by a sight that took his breath away.  
Tammy gasped.
They held each other close.
All my mind can picture here is the two of them gasping and running into each other's arms, like they're in a cartoon about a haunted house and just saw a ghost. There's some very specific image I'm picturing, but I can't for the life of me remember what it's from, which is sad, because I was hoping to link to it so you guys knew what I was talking about. If I remember I'll come back and link.

What makes them gasp is that apparently the ship now has an entire bulletin board dedicated to Skye. They then discover that Skye's real name was Isaura, which is the name of both the cruise ship and the comet she discovered. The captain reveals that the ship was built for Skye.

Hold up, hold up, hold up.

Is this a private ship or not?

If it is a private ship, then how the heck were Morgan and Tammy able to randomly book a cruise on it for their own pleasure without being in any way connected to the Leontious? Did Doctor L. L. schedule these cruises on his own ship but then call a random cruise company and say, "Hey, if you want to use my ship for a cruise, I'm going through the Panama Canal anyway and have room for like 50 more people"?

If it's not a private ship, then is it because Doctor L. L. made a ship for Skye and then... sold it to the cruise line, with the assumption that he'd be able to take it back for his disease cruise every year as long as he let random other people sign up for that cruise too? And won't all the people who don't happen to go on this one particular cruise two weeks out of every year be very confused about this bulletin board focusing on a random little girl they've never met because she lives on Leontiou Island most of the time?

Tammy added, “Oh my goodness, that comet was named after her too, wasn’t it?” 
Captain Dimitriou nodded his head. 
“She never told us that either.” Morgan shook his head. 
“That was Skye. She did things that none of us knew about, and never took credit for any of it.”
Except for photographs. She's totally fine with taking credit for other people's photographs.

And if she really never took credit for any of it, she wouldn't have named the comet after herself.

It seems Skye frequently stole blankets and towels from the ship to give to homeless kids "across the street," which is a little confusing, because I don't know why the cruise ship was ever parked on the side of a street. More confusingly, they're "in a field," which means that there's a street somewhere in between Florida and the Panama Canal with a dock large enough for an enormous cruise ship on one side and a field on the other, and I can't picture the geography of this area at all.

They finish out the cruise, where they receive more donations than ever before, which is impressive, considering that two years ago, absolutely everyone who attended donated $30,000 apiece and was still expected to donate more by the end of the cruise.
Upon returning to the clinic, they both plunged into their work. Morgan ran the clinic with love and kindness . . . 
. . . despite never having shown any interest in any of the other patients, preferring to just walk on the beach with Skye all the time. I'm not sure he even knows who anyone else is.

We have one more chapter, gang. ONE MORE. Next week, The Quest for Skye is FINISHED. And then we'll discuss what I'm going to tackle after that. I've had some suggestions made, and I'm going to ask for all of your input.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Sometimes Hope is the Worst

(It's been a tough couple weeks, depressionwise. I promise that even if this continues for awhile, I'm not going to make every blog I write about depression. That's lame to read. But out of all the blogs I started trying to write for today, this was the one that I actually finished. So here goes.)

My friend Sarah posted a quote on her Facebook the other day that said, "It's impossible to over-hope." While I've frequently considered myself a pretty optimistic person, this week I've been thinking about how much easier life is when your expectations and hopes are low.

The main thing prompting this recently has been a discouraging situation I've found myself in the middle of. I've been on varying dosages of steroids since November to help me deal with my rheumatoid arthritis. While steroids are fantastic for reducing pain and bringing down inflammation, they also come with a bunch of unpleasant side effects, such as depression (because, yeah, I need more of that) and weight gain.

WHOO, that weight gain. After five months on these drugs, I've gained about 45 pounds. And it's really bothering me.

I've never before been anyone who was really bothered by her weight. Even when I was on steroids several years ago and gained a bunch, it didn't keep me up nights or make me feel crappy about myself. The other night I was trying to figure it out, why it was so distressing to me now and why it didn't distress me then.

Then I realized that it was because of where my expectations were.

I've never really liked the way I look. For most of my life I've just thought of myself as being kind of awkward-looking. Even during events where I got to dress up and have hair and makeup done, I still never thought I looked nice. And so I just kind of had that ingrained in my mind: "You're not pretty, and you're never going to be pretty, so just stop stressing about it."

So I stopped. I turned all my energy toward being a kind and smart and interesting person rather than a physically attractive one, since I figured those goals were actually attainable. When I gained weight on the steroids the first time, it didn't alter my perception of myself to be any more negative than it already was. Being further away from an impossible goal didn't seem like a big deal.

Over the past year or two, being in a relationship and being around someone who apparently liked the way I looked completely changed the way I thought about myself. For the first time in my entire life, I sometimes felt kinda pretty. It was a new, weird feeling, but as I adjusted to it, I was pretty happy with it.

And then, suddenly, in the span of a few months I blew up like a balloon.

Three years ago, this wouldn't have mattered. I would still be apathetic about my appearance, and so a weight gain wouldn't have really weighed in one way or the other (especially one caused by drugs that would eventually probably be adjusted when I came back off the drugs). But I wasn't apathetic anymore. I had actual feelings about the way I looked. So when things changed, the positive feelings didn't go back to being apathetic, they turned into negative ones.

Before, I had zero expectations or hope for improvement, and I'd made peace with that, and I was OK.

Then I started hoping, and then my hopes were dashed, and now everything is sad.

This isn't the only situation recently where this has come up. There have been a couple other things going on in my life where I was optimistically hoping for the best, and what happened was... not that. Broken relationships I thought would mend have just gotten worse. Job opportunities that were presenting themselves suddenly fell apart. Friends who are dealing with crap get even more crap thrown at them. Attempts at serious conversations about things that matter to me somehow turn into pointless, petty arguments where everyone gets hurt. And each time, I think to myself, "If I had expected the worst in the first place, I would feel better right now."

I told a friend lately that it feels like my entire life this week has been disappointment repair, which is an exhausting way to live, and I am feeling more sympathy than ever for the people who choose to just turn off all their emotions. It's like deciding to eat food off china plates from now on because you love how beautiful the china is, but then about half the time you use those plates you end up breaking them and then you have to spend all this time gluing them back together when really, wouldn't it be smarter and easier and better to just not eat off those plates at all?

I know that some of this is the depression talking. I know that it takes situations that are not that big a deal and turns them into "EVERYTHING IS THE WORST AND WILL NEVER GET BETTER," and while a part of me believes that things will get better eventually, there's another part of me that thinks maybe I'd be better off just thinking they won't, because then at least I can stop spending all this time picking up broken pieces and just plow on ahead.

I don't have any answers for this yet. I'm not even sure I could make myself apathetic about all these things if I wanted to. And I feel like it's a self-preservation plan that would ultimately backfire somehow.

But, man. Sometimes hope really sucks.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Top 5, Bottom 5: Political Dramas

(Last week was... not a great week, and I didn't get any blogs written. Anxiety went crazy at me, and I ended up having to spend way more time than usual to get basic everyday productive tasks done, which didn't leave a lot of time left for blogging. I'm hoping to get back into the swing of things this week. In the meantime, here's what I've got today!)

I watched my 20th political drama this week, according to Flickchart (The Whistleblower, which landed at #10 out of 20). I figured that meant it was time to do a Top 5, Bottom 5 list for this particular genre. Rankings are out of 2109 movies currently on my chart.

Top 5:
1. Frost/Nixon (2008, #65). This is one example of why I love movies based on plays so much. The tension in this movie is carried entirely by taut dialogue and excellent acting, and it's captivating to watch.
2. All the President's Men (1976, #75). Apparently the Nixon era is my favorite historical period for political dramas. Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman are truly excellent here. Fascinating movie.
3. Argo (2012, #519). It wasn't my favorite movie of 2012 by far, but I was impressed by how interesting and exciting the story was. Go, Ben Affleck.
4. Malcolm X (1992, #634). I didn't know much about Malcolm X before watching this movie, and watching his story unfold was very interesting. Denzel Washington is great in this.
5. Amazing Grace (2006, #872). My first political drama about British politics, rather than American. I initially watched it just for Benedict Cumberbatch, but it's a pretty engaging story.

Bottom 5:
1. Island in the Sun (1957, #2019). This movie was excruciatingly boring. I forgot it existed approximately ten minutes after finishing it.
2. Paradise Now (2005, #2005, which is a fun coincidence). Someday I might give this another shot, but when I first saw it, I just didn't get it.
3. Medium Cool (1969, #1966, which is ALMOST a fun coincidence). I couldn't stay interested, and now I've almost completely forgotten it, so it'll probably be stuck in the bottom 200 of my chart for awhile.
4. To Kill a King (2003, #1691). Another one I watched solely for Benedict Cumberbatch, only to find out he plays, like... Royalist #2 or something and isn't even in it. Much as I like Tim Roth, this movie plods.
5. All the King's Men (2006, #1690). The problem with all the political dramas at the bottom of my list is that they were mostly just dull and now I've forgotten them. I can't think of a single memory I have of this movie.

What are your favorite political dramas? Is this a genre you like or dislike overall?

Friday, April 11, 2014

The Quest for Skye: Chapter 37

Recap: Well, in the last chapter, Morgan hired two cruise ship gym workers to build a handicap-accessible zip line in the jungle. Then the gym workers got married. And I just kept saying, "WHAT IS HAPPENING?!" On the plus side, we have this, then the final chapter two weeks from today. 

We open with a reminder that Skye is dying, which makes me go, "Yay!"
Morgan held Skye, so that the three of them could decorate a Christmas tree in her room.
The next sentence talks about her decorating the tree, so I think this means he's holding her up to put decorations on because he can't walk anymore, but it makes me think that he's holding her back because if he lets go she's just going to run rabidly at the tree and tear it down, and they just all want to decorate the tree in peace.

Skye has another near-death experience. She pulls through, but everyone is reminded yet again that Skye is dying. Presumably this reminds everyone once again to be working on a cure for Batten, because they only seem to remember that they're doing that right after Skye almost doesn't make it.

In the middle of the night, Skye wakes the Hamiltons up to say this:
“No, thank you. I need to tell you something really important. I was just talking to Jesus, and He asked me if there was anything in the world I wanted. I told him there was only one thing. [..] I don’t think I can tell you yet. It’s a secret between Jesus and me. But it’s a big surprise.”
Her big news is that she asked for something from God? But she won't tell them what? I'm going to start doing that all the time now. "Hey! Guess what? I'm going to do something today! But I won't tell you what it is! That's all I wanted to say!" Morgan and Tammy think Skye's not even really talking to Jesus, that her medication is making her hallucinate.
Once in a while, Skye would say something about her mother and father. She mentioned repeatedly that she’d been talking with them.
Does she just keep wandering up into heaven during all these near-death experiences?
Tammy put some color on her face, and a little foundation. She applied some lip gloss to her dried, cracked lips. Her mom brushed her hair, while Morgan read her favorite book to her.
There are entirely too many "her"s in these sentences, made even more confusing by suddenly referring to Tammy as "her mom." For a minute I thought Tammy's mom had shown up to brush Tammy's hair.
They made their way to the dining room. It was busy, but not a chipper place, as it usually was. Everyone walked around like something or someone was missing. The smiles were forced. It was obvious that everyone was worried about their friend, Skye.
See, here's the thing.


It's not just all about Skye. Skye is maybe even going to die less soon than all these other girls, since she'd been getting the special medication.

There's something really horrific everyone being "chipper" about every single other little girl at the clinic dying, but only getting sad when Skye is about to be gone. Yes, I know Skye is the Messiah and all, but I just can't buy that, for example, all the other girls' parents are sadder about Skye dying than about their own children dying.

In the meantime, we suddenly break away from Morgan and Tammy's POV (for the first time since maybe that first chapter, so it's really jarring) and see Skye asking Dr. Rozak to let her videotape a secret message for the Hamiltons. Dr. Rozak agrees and leaves. She records her message (we don't get to hear what it is), puts the camera and a written message inside an envelope and makes Dr. Rozak promise to open it after she dies. I think. These are the instructions:
“I have a big job for you. You can open this after I die. [...] Don’t open the envelope until you’re supposed to. Then, you can read the letter.” 
“Skye, how will I know when to open it?” His expression showed his confusion. 
“You’ll know. Something extraordinary will happen. Now, don’t forget. We are looking for miracles here... that’s very important.” 
She looked at him, shaking her finger. “Not until the miracle happens, right?”
Wait, so is he supposed to open it after she dies? Or when a miracle happens? If a miracle happens before she dies, can he open it? If she dies, can he go ahead and open it, or does he need to wait for a miracle? If I were Dr. Rozak, I'd have been very confused. Although not at the point when he was confused.

"Open it after I die."

"Wait, what? When can I open it?"

"After a miracle."


The days go by, and Skye scolds Tammy about not praying enough, so eventually Tammy goes to the chapel and prays emotionally.

Christmas Eve morning, Dr. Rozak wakes up Morgan to let him know that Skye's vitals are down. She's conscious and awake and asking for him. Skye sits with the Hamiltons for awhile, tells them not to be sad, to take care of her cat, makes Morgan promise to walk on the beach every morning, makes them both promise not to abandon the clinic. Then:
“Just remember if you ever need me, all you have to do is reach for the sky.”
Um. OK.

(Is that what she was doing in the creepy "everyone reach for the sky with me" scene on the cruise ship? Was she just needing dead people?)

She then starts talking to her real parents and tells Doctor L. L. she's going to go to heaven and fly a kite with him. And then she dies.



Now we only have 2 more chapters of Morgan and Tammy being sad and having conversions and stuff. Oh, shoot, I forgot we have a video message they have to watch. So I guess Skye will show up at least once in these last two chapters. Dang it. I thought we were done with her forever. ALMOST.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Favorite Songs of 2014 (Thus Far)

Whenever I fall in love with a song, I mark it five stars on iTunes. I have an iTunes smart playlist (which are super awesome and if you have iTunes and don't use smart playlists you are MISSING OUT ON HOW TO DO MUSIC...or something) that keeps all my five-star-rated songs from the year, indicating that these are the songs I really loved in any given year.

We are a fourth of the way through the year, so I figured I'd share with you guys my favorite discoveries of 2014 so far. I was going to write a little blurb about each one and why I love it, but arthritis is breaking my fingers a li'l bit right now, so you'll just have to settle for video clips. You'll just have to guess why I love them.

So here they are, my favorite songs of January-March 2014:

Let It Go from Frozen

Frozen Heart from Frozen

Royals by Lorde

When I Grow Up from Matilda

Cop Car by Keith Urban
(I know, I know, I usually hate country songs, but for some reason I REALLY like this one)

Let It Go by Caleb Hyles

You Haven't Seen the Last of Me from Burlesque

Mr. Chu by A Pink


What have you been listening to lately?

Monday, April 7, 2014

Do Extroverts Feel Pressured to Speak? (And Other Questions For My Extrovert Friends)

In the midst of all these articles about "things introverts have to deal with," someone pulled together a similar article about extroverts, and one part in particular caught my eye:
When there’s a lull in the conversation, do you know who starts it back up again? The extrovert does. However, being the engine and the fuel for social gatherings can be extremely tiring and feel like a lot of work, so sometimes it would be nice for us extroverts to be allowed a break and have other people take over (though, for some of us, not talking can be quite the challenge).
The first time I read this article, it was actually from a blog by an introvert who was responding to the article, and they had basically the same response I did: Do we need to keep the conversation going?

This led to a few other thoughts which I kept hoping would solidify into a coherent theme, but it really hasn't yet, so here they are in no order at all.
  • I know for me, as an introvert, I feel definite pressure to keep most conversations going, but that's because I assume I'm talking to someone more extroverted than I am (because everyone is more extroverted than I am). But I really would be just as happy not talking if I have nothing to say. The pressure I feel to keep up the conversation is entirely external -- I assume other people want me to keep talking, so I try. When extroverts feel pressure to talk, is it mostly external or internal? Do they feel like they should talk because they think I want conversation, or do they feel like they should talk because they want conversation? Or a little of both? Because, hey, I'm totally fine with occasional silence if you are.
  • When I spend time with introverted friends, it's quite common for us, after the initial burst of conversation, to spend much of our time together in the same room but doing individual things, laptops open or books in hand, with the opportunity to lapse back into conversation as it arises. Does this count as social interaction for extroverts? Or does their interaction need to be more driven/active? How necessary is conversation to the feeling of having spent time with someone?
(I was hoping I could find a picture of me and a friend on computers together,
but this is the closest I found. Anyway, I'M socializing while on the computer here...
I'm not sure what Jacob is doing. Posing? Stretching?)
  • Which is more socially fulfilling for an extrovert: constant conversation with someone about something you don't really care about (because, watch out, you get some of us introverts talking about something we love and we can go on for hours) or scattered moments of conversation you're interested in interspersed with long silences? I would always choose the latter, but are extroverts more likely to find that uninterrupted social interaction is worth it, no matter the subject?
I am kind of fascinated by this and would really love any of my friends who consider themselves more on the extroverted side of things to chime in with any thoughts of their own. Introverted friends, feel free to ask the extroverts in your life and report back to me on what they say. I'd like to post a follow-up blog next week with some of the comments.

I am so far on the introverted side of things that sometimes I'm reminded that I really have very little concept of what it's like to see things from the other side. I'm sure it varies from person to person, but I'd love to get some feedback.

Friday, April 4, 2014

The Quest for Skye: Chapter 36

Recap: Morgan and Tammy took Skye on a little visit to Florida, where she was reunited with her favorite kissing dolphin and played the piano with Trans-Siberian Orchestra. Now they're all sad because she's going to die soon. Frankly, I can't wait.

They all come back to the clinic and Morgan tells Lance that he wants to do like a Make-a-Wish foundation kind of thing for all the girls at the clinic, not just Skye.
"So, if I’m in charge here that’s one of the conditions. I want to see their dream fulfilled."
Um, I'm pretty sure he and Tammy already signed all the papers and stuff. There's no more "setting conditions" for him to take this job. He's had it and has had it for several months now. Which means he's now... subtly threatening to quit if Lance doesn't give in to him on this? Fortunately (or unfortunately, not sure which) Lance has no objections to this.

Morgan apparently has another big surprise up his sleeve, because he gets a phone call, tells Lance and Tammy to change into casual clothes, and tells Dr. Rozak he needs to take Skye out for the afternoon. This is like, immediately after they've returned. Skye probably hasn't even unpacked yet. Dr. Rozak is a little hesitant about letting her go back out and party or whatever in her weakened state.
“Do I need to be concerned with what you have planned?” 
“Well, do you remember what we talked about a few weeks ago?” Morgan asked.
Wait, hold up now. The trip to Florida wasn't what they were all secretively talking about? His secret trip to Athens and request to take Skye away for awhile weren't related to that at all? He has another secret? Whatever this one is, it apparently involves all the children, but only Skye gets to go out for the afternoon.

When Morgan announces he has another surprise for Skye, this happens:
[S]he tried to jump up and down, but didn’t have the energy.
I am probably not supposed to cheer that the horrible debilitating disease is making Skye less obnoxious, but...

Skye suddenly hears a familiar voice and turns around to find Gym Kim and Zack (remember them from the cruise ship?) are there.
“Your dad asked us to come. We actually have been here for three days,” Zack replied.
I have this mental image of them just hiding in a closet somewhere until they got the OK to come out into the world.
“Three days, and you haven’t come by to visit. Why?” She frowned deliberately.
Well, SHE HAS BEEN GONE. They would have had to fly to Florida to visit her three days ago.

Rothdiener has completely lost track of his time frame. Skye and the Hamiltons returned to the island, Lance came by to see Morgan "upon his return," which to me implies like... pretty much right away, especially since they all live on the island, so it's not even implied that he'd have to wait to see him until the next business day. From his conversation with Lance, he rushes to talk to Dr. Rozak, and immediately after his conversation with Rozak, Skye wanders in, and then Zack and Kim showed up.

When, exactly, did Skye think Zack and Kim should have visited her?

Anyway, instead of saying, "You weren't even in this country three days ago" like a sensible human, Zack explains that they have been busy "building something" for her and her friends. Dr. Rozak orders everyone in the clinic outside because everyone's going on a field trip.
“What about lunch?” Tammy inquired. 
Morgan stepped in. “Ah, if you notice, you can’t smell any food cooking. We’re going on a picnic.” 
Tammy peered at her husband. “You thought of everything, didn’t you?”
"I'm so proud of you for remembering that children need to eat!" Seriously, that's kind of a weird thing to praise him for.

Anyway, the kids all get loaded up into vans and get driven away somewhere, all trying to guess where they're going and what Zack and Gym Kim have been building.
When Skye saw how futile their guessing was, she started singing. The other kids in her van joined in song as they traveled the streets of the town waving at everyone they saw.
"Everyone they saw"? They talk like this is an actual city full of just random people. The only inhabitants of this island are the patients, patients' families, clinic workers, and probably some maintenance people. The patients and clinic workers are all in the vans, so basically they're just waving at maintenance people and like 10 girls' parents, all of whom appear to be outside at the same time.

At the edge of a forest, they stop and have a picnic.
There were plenty of hotdogs and burgers with all the side dishes.
...ALL the side dishes?

Morgan gets up to give a speech.
“Right now, I’m fulfilling a promise.” 
His wife gave him an affirmation nod, but it was Skye’s big thumbs-up that almost sent him over the edge.
..."Over the edge"?

What is WITH Rothdiener's choice of words in this chapter?

Skye gives Morgan a thumbs-up to the concept of him fulfilling a promise and he... what? Loses his mind? WHY? I don't even know what he's going over the edge of, but all I can picture is him like completely losing control and finishing the speech in some sort of hysterical tone of voice, and it's ridiculous, and I don't know why a thumbs-up would break him like that.
“When I decided to put this secret project in motion, one name jumped out at me. It needed to be done safely. I recalled a conversation I had with Zack on a cruise almost eighteen months ago, and I knew he was the perfect man for the job.” 
He glanced at the friendly faces before him. Some of the children were weakening fast, others still appeared healthy.
Well, maybe he shouldn't have yanked them away from the hospital to make them eat ALL THE SIDE DISHES.

And we FINALLY get a reveal: Zack and Gym Kim have built a zip-line for the kids.

Hold up.


OK, first of all, a zip-line does not seem like a terribly safe thing to put kids on when they have a disease that causes blindness, dementia, and loss of motor control. It seems like it would be very likely to be either traumatizing or dangerous or both.

Secondly, if you WERE going to do that, YES, you would have to do it "safely," but why the heck is Zack the right man for the job?! I went back and searched the whole book -- Morgan never even MET Zack. He met Gym Kim, he saw Zack from across the room, and Skye raved that Zack was a hunk, but he never met him.

Also, Zack and Gym Kim are personal trainers. In a gym on a cruise ship. In what world does this qualify them to safely build (apparently entirely by themselves) a zip-line for children who may no longer have control of their own bodies?


Seriously, this is the kind of thing an administrator is supposed to be able to do intelligently. Figure out what needs to get done, figure out who can do it, and delegate it. That is not supposed to consist of saying, "Oh, hey, I saw a personal trainer from across a gym one time. Maybe I should call him and ask him to come out here to personally build a zip-line when I have no reason to believe he knows anything about it. That won't endanger the lives of the children I'm taking care of at all."

Zack does explain that everything is handicap accessible, so the kids in wheelchairs can still go, but still, I don't know that I'd have much faith placed in a zip-line built in three days by a random gym worker who has shown no interest in zip-lining thus far.

After everybody zip-lines and, miraculously, nobody dies, the Hamiltons and Skye and Zack and Gym Kim all go out to dinner, where Zack reveals that he and Gym Kim are going to get married there on the island that Sunday, and Skye is going to be their flower girl.

I just... I don't have the energy to snark at this anymore. This is just another completely ridiculous plot point, and there's no reason they would have had their wedding there. If Jacob had said to me a week before our wedding, "Hey, would you like to fly to a random island that is the home of a random little girl we met once like a year and a half ago? We can spend the week before our wedding building a zip-line for children with rare diseases, and then we can get married on that island with none of our friends there but at least that little girl we met once will be our flower girl and she can play the piano for us too!" I'm pretty sure I would have just laughed heartily in his face.

Of course Skye plays the piano at their wedding, and it's lovely, and then everybody goes home.

I will leave you with this highly amusing piece of writing that is supposed to be about Skye hugging Tammy before she goes to bed, but I prefer to read it as the little girl calmly strangling her to death.
She grabbed hold of her mom’s neck, closing her eyes, unwilling to let go.
14. Pages. Left.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

My Top 8 Disney Soundtracks

I've written about Disney music before, on my blog post My Top 10 Disney Songs Sung by Males, but I wanted to make a list detailing the best Disney soundtracks overall. Sometimes a movie will have just one or two solid songs, while others seem to be just awesome all the way through. So, without further ado, here are my favorite Disney soundtracks overall, building from least favorite (of these eight) to most favorite.

8. Tarzan
(songs by Phil Collins)

Breaking with Disney tradition a bit, Tarzan only had two of its songs actually being performed by the characters in the movie, while the rest were presented as regular pop songs scoring the action, in typical movie soundtrack fashion. However, I actually really enjoyed all the songs, even though the characters didn't sing them. They're energetic and upbeat and fun to listen to even outside of the context of the story.

That being said, though, my favorite song from the movie is one of the ones the characters actually perform. I'm a sucker for musical numbers that take their musical cues from what is physically happening in the scene -- such as, in this case, discovering that destroying various objects in rhythm is fun. (I wrote a lot about this in my musical spotlight of The Music Man, where a lot of the songs do this.) The song is short, but fun... and the a capella pop cover by Phil Collins and N*Sync is actually one of my very favorite silly pick-me-up songs.

Favorite song: "Trashin' the Camp."

7. Frozen
(songs by Kristen Anderson Lopez and Robert Lopez)

This one might be a bit cliched to pick at the moment, as everyone and their dog is in love with Frozen, but I really do think this is the first great Disney soundtrack we've had in years, after the disappointingly bland Tangled (c'mon, Alan Menken, you are MUCH better than that) and the fun-but-not-memorable The Princess and the Frog (it's less surprising that Randy Newman's score wasn't awesome). I've loved Robert Lopez's theater work, so it's not at all surprising that I fell in love with the songs he and his wife pulled together for this.

It's not all about "Let It Go," though. "In Summer" is just the right length to be a funny, entertaining sidekick song without getting annoying, "Love Is An Open Door" is a perfect tribute to Disney love ballads, and "Frozen Heart" captured my attention right from the beginning of the movie. Great stuff.

Favorite song: ...Yeah, it's still "Let It Go." I don't know anyone doesn't love that song.

6. The Hunchback of Notre Dame
(songs by Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz)

It's not as all-around solid as some of the later additions on this list, but a few of the songs in here are absolutely drop-dead gorgeous... not to mention "A Guy Like You," which, despite my hatred for the existence of the gargoyles in this movie, is one of my favorite songs on the soundtrack. It's just so much fun to dance and sing along with.

Aside from that one song (which, though delightful, doesn't really fit in with the rest of the soundtrack... much as the gargoyles don't fit with the rest of the movie), the score has a lovely dark tone to it, creating a beautifully atmospheric backdrop for the story.

Favorite song: "Out There."

5. A Goofy Movie
(songs by Tom Snow, Jack Feldman, Patrick DeRemer & Roy Freeland)

I mentioned my unusual love for these songs on my Disney guy songs blog, and it's still true. Aside from the not-as-awesome-as-the-rest "On the Open Road" (though I still go through spurts where I thoroughly enjoy it), the songs featured in the movie are some of my very favorites to listen to. There are two Michael Jackson-esque pop songs that are infectiously catchy and then two more typical Disneyesque songs that I love with pretty much all my heart.

This ends up being a weirdly hard one to defend because, first, the movie itself is not so great and, second, nobody but me seems to actually enjoy the songs. But I still love it, and it makes me feel cool to have a less traditional pick in my list, since the top four on my list are unlikely to surprise anyone.

Favorite song: "After Today." Maybe my #1 Disney song ever. EVER. It is almost impossible for me to still feel sad after listening to that song.

4. The Little Mermaid
(songs by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman)

Alan Menken in the eighties and nineties was freaking AWESOME. The Little Mermaid has not only some of the most iconic Disney songs, but also truly some of the best. "Poor Unfortunate Souls" is a really fantastic villain song, "Part of Your World" is probably the best I-want-more-out-of-life song Disney's ever produced, and "Les Poissons," although short, is hilarious.

And, of course, we can't forget my favorite song from the show, which gave us one of the most tremendously entertaining animated song sequences of all time. The lyrics are clever, the music is fun, it builds from a funky little number into an enormous sing-along involving, apparently, the entire population of the ocean. It's a delightful song that always put a smile on my face.

Favorite song: Well, if you hadn't guessed by now, you probably haven't seen the movie. It's "Under the Sea."

3. Aladdin
(songs by Alan Menken, Howard Ashman and Tim Rice)

This one went back and forth with The Little Mermaid as to which was going to be #3 and which was going to be #4. In the end, though, this one came out on top, because while "A Whole New World" isn't as good a ballad as "Part of Your World," the fun songs in this are just so much fun. "Friend Like Me" is entertaining, though Robin Williams' many-voiced performance is a little much, "Prince Ali" has wonderful lyrics and a wonderful grandiose feel to it...

The cream of the crop, however, was yet another one mentioned in my Best Guy Disney Songs blog, a fast-paced, energetic, delightful song that follows Aladdin as he runs through the streets of Agrabah. It captures the sense of adventurous playfulness that is at the heart of not only Aladdin himself, but the entire movie. The only thing missing from this soundtrack is a great villain song.

Favorite song: "One Jump Ahead."

2. The Lion King
(songs by Elton John and Tim Rice)

OK, let me preface this by saying I don't like "Hakuna Matata" much. I think it's fun but there's not a lot of actual song to the song -- it's like 90% just repeating the catchy chorus over and over with dialogue in between. However, all the other songs on this soundtrack are so good that it just kept scooting its way up until it was in second place.

"Circle of Life" is one of my favorite opening movie songs ever. It perfectly sets the tone for the majestic opening scene, and the gorgeous animation matches it beautifully. It's just a breathtakingly great way to start off the movie. Usually I'd be uninterested in a pop ballad like "Can You Feel the Love Tonight," but it works perfectly in the movie's context, and I've grown to really love its simple melody. And "I Just Can't Wait To Be King" is so cheerful and fun and captures the feel of being young and (stupidly) carefree.

But best of all is The Best Disney Villain Song Of All Time. Ever. Gives me chills every time I watch the clip.

Favorite song: "Be Prepared."

1. Beauty and the Beast
(songs by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman)

Yup, the Menken/Ashman team managed to create three amazing movie soundtracks in four years, but this one is by far my favorite. There's not a single song here I don't really, really love. The title song is simple and elegant and beautiful. There are two amazing villain songs -- one comedic and one dramatic, and it's always a toss-up which one I'll love more on any given day. "Be Our Guest" is pretty much the definition of a show-stopping number. Even "Belle," which is a little bit lower if I were to put all the songs in order, is a wonderfully energetic number that does a great job of introducing us to our main character and who she is in the context of her world.

The lyrics are intelligent and fun, the music is memorable and gorgeous and delightful, and I have perhaps never had more fun being part of an ensemble than when I got to be in this show and hear these songs every night. There truly is a magic to them for me.

Favorite song: Guys, I'm not even sure I can choose one. So for now I'm going to go with "Beauty and the Beast," because I haven't had a lot of songs sung by girls on this list and it is so pretty.

Which ones would be on your list?