Friday, September 27, 2013

The Quest for Skye: Chapter 12

Recap: Skye discovered a comet once. I'm convinced she's planning on being a cult leader. She has now made several more plans to hang out with Morgan and Tammy, including zip-lining because her father is afraid of heights (though one of my readers has brought up the very good question: Why can't Malinda take her to any of these places?).

This chapter is very short, which is just fine with me, because I can really only take so much Skye at a time anyway.

We start right off with a reminder that the Hamiltons are being worn down by that oh-so-charming little girl.
Early the next morning, the weary Hamiltons met Skye and her parents by the lighthouse man.
Maybe she should stop waking them up in the middle of the night and just let them sleep, dang it!

Morgan and Tammy and Skye and the Leontious all go swimming with stingrays, and then the Leontious go back for the conference, having met their quota of time with their daughter for the day and being anxious to leave her in the hands of people not yet exhausted by her bossy pushiness and cutesy condescension. (I can only assume.)

Morgan and Tammy and Skye go on to a butterfly farm, where it turns out Skye is a butterfly magnet. They surround her and land on her, completely astonishing the butterfly keeper and all the people around.
Tammy snapped a few pictures and whispered, “Morgan, who is this child?”
Seriously, what is Rothdiener trying to suggest with all this? Is he suggesting that if I live my life in trusting faith as he claims Skye does, then butterflies will land on me all the time too? Is this a sign that someone is doing the right thing as far as their religion? Or is he really truly trying to imply Skye has some sort of super special power because... well, for no reason at all? (Because, really, making butterflies and dolphins love her is of no practical use other than to make people marvel at her.)

I know I've made this joke before, but I really feel sometimes like he's trying to make her Jesus... which doesn't sit well with me.

We then jump ahead several days, where we learn that Morgan and Tammy pretty much spend all their time with Skye while the Leontious are off conventioning and avoiding their daughter. In the middle of all this summarizing, we do get an all-important scene where Skye sees an outfit in a shop window and asks if they have it in blue. They don't.


That better become important later. Although I don't have a lot of faith it will. I feel like it was just a random tidbit.

Finally, finally, the boat enters the Panama Canal.
As the large ship crept through the famous locks, Skye explained its history, offering tidbits of information that astounded them.
Like "did you know this should only have taken like a day?" (OK, admittedly, they are apparently going to other places on their way down to and back from the Canal, but, really, they shouldn't call it "a cruise through the Panama Canal" when it's going all over the place and they're only in the Panama Canal for like a fourteenth of the length of the cruise.)

Morgan and Tammy go to a passenger talent show, where they see the Leontious in the audience, but no Skye. They are worried. WHO WANTS TO BET SKYE IS PERFORMING AND IT WILL AMAZE EVERYONE?

*raises hand*
“Our last musician is known by almost everyone on this ship. How can you not know her? She’s always first to say hello, or assist an elderly person.”
Oh, yup. Here she is. The Girl Who Helps Old People By Making Them Take Pictures For Her After They've Magically Teleported Up Waterfalls.
Morgan and Tammy jumped to their feet, applauding wildly. They were not embarrassed, even though they were the only ones on their feet.
Morgan and Tammy will be the first to join Skye's cult, as they are apparently far more excited about her performance than her parents are.

Skye is going to play the piano tonight:
Like a trained entertainer, she sat on the piano bench, straightening her dress.
I am going to have to use that line sometime. "Man, you sit on that piano bench like a trained entertainer!" Or is it straightening her dress that reveals her training? Either way, apparently one of those is much harder than anyone anticipated and required some training.

Skye plays Pachelbel's Canon in D, and, whaddya know, it amazes everyone. Morgan's crying and Tammy mentally proclaims it to be the highlight of the cruise. (Um. Okay.)

Skye dedicates her song to her parents and then talks about how much fun the cruise is.
“I’ve met some wonderful people. Kim, Zack, Mrs. Scott, and I can’t forget Morgan and Tammy. They’re really special to me.”
She looked out into the auditorium and shouted, “Mom, Dad, I love you, too!”
First of all, it's really convenient that the only people she mentions of the hundreds (possibly thousands) she has met are the few we've actually met. As far as I know, Skye has had zero interaction with Gym Kim and Hunky Zack since that first day. She's just been with Morgan and Tammy the whole time. But they get a shoutout.

But I'm mostly curious as to which "Mom" and "Dad" is she referring to? Her actual parents, or Morgan and Tammy? I think she's talking about the Hamiltons, and it continues to be just weird that she calls them Mom and Dad.

And that's the end. This chapter is literally just there to tell us Skye is a magically perfect piano player and that butterflies like to land on her.

I've glanced ahead at the next chapter, though, and it looks like some plot might actually start happening, so that's going to be fun.

(Chapters 13/14.)

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

My Top 10 Parody Episodes In Community

Monday's blog about parodies got me thinking about some of my very favorite parodies - the ones found in the TV show Community. A lot of sitcom try to do genre parodies, but nearly every single one in Community works. The writers clearly have fondness for the styles they're spoofing, and they manage to make it work beautifully. So here are my top 10 parody episodes the show has ever done, from least favorite to absolute favorite.

10. Pillows and Blankets
(parodying the Ken Burns Civil War documentary)

There have been a few documentary-based Community episodes throughout the show, but this is my favorite, as it's parodying a very specific type of documentary. With voiceover narration, still images, and "dramatic reenactments" of emails and texts sent among the students, this episode tells the story of the infamous war between the Greendale students who wanted to make a pillow fort and the Greendale students who wanted to make a blanket fort.

9. Basic Human Anatomy
(parodying body switch movies)

Toward the end of a disappointing fourth season, we got this gem, written by Jim Rash, a.k.a. Dean Pelton himself. Body switching movies all pretty much have the same format, and this follows it pretty closely, with some good laughs. We get to see Donald Glover's portrayal of Abed (impressive) and Danny Pudi's portrayal of Troy (less impressive, but still fun). On top of that, it tells a surprisingly moving story about courage and taking responsibility. Sweet and funny, it's probably the best episode of the season.

8. Modern Warfare
(parodying various action movies)

The first season of Community wasn't as parody-heavy as seasons two and three, but toward the end we did get the first of the paintball sagas. As a paintball war breaks out on Greendale's campus, we get this very funny parody of - well, there are several action movies referenced here, but the overall feel is very Rambo-esque to me, with not only the action sequences but the recurring theme of "War changes people and it is bad." Either way, there are plenty of jokes to catch, and it was one of the first episodes to really take hold of the nerd culture and say, "Listen up, people. This is a show to watch."

7. Abed's Uncontrollable Christmas
(parodying stop-motion Christmas specials)

Some of the more overtly ridiculous parodies are given a plausible explanation, such as this one, where Abed wakes up one December morning to find he sees the entire world as claymation. His friends work to "fix" him, and what follows is a hilarious, but also completely endearing, story about Christmas and tradition. It's a beautifully creative way to tell what could be a generic holiday season story.

6. Basic Rocket Science
(parodying space/astronaut movies)

Here's where sorting my favorites gets really difficult because they're all so good. Much of this episode is apparently parodying the movie Apollo 13, which I have not seen, but many of these astronaut and space adventure tropes are very, very familiar in general anyway. The concept of the episode is great: The study group gets caught inside a renovated space flight simulator (sponsored by KFC) that then "takes off" as the simulator is towed away. It's just a fun science fictiony spoof.

5. Regional Holiday Music
(parodying Glee and various musical styles)

This Christmas episode does not have a plausible explanation, and there's absolutely no reason for everyone to be breaking out into song (aside from the fact that the glee club teacher maybe has evil magic powers?) but the songs are so funny and so perfectly matched to each of the characters that it doesn't even matter. My favorites: Annie's disturbing but hysterical little girl twist on "Santa Baby," and the choir of children asking Shirley through song what the meaning of Christmas is.

4. Epidemiology
(parodying zombie movies)

While zombie parodies have been done to death, no other one has an ABBA-filled soundtrack, to my knowledge. That, for me, is what pushes this episode so far to the top. It's mildly funny to watch Greendale students transformed into zombies, it's hilarious to see zombies chasing survivors around as the music blares: "Gimme, gimme, gimme a man after midnight!" The jokes are solid, the tone is perfect, and it remains one of the show's best parodies.

3. Paradigms of Human Memory
(parodying clip shows)

My thought process as I first watched this episode:

"Oh, gross. A clip show. Those are so lazy."

"Did I miss an episode? When did that happen?"


2. Horror Fiction in Seven Spooky Steps

This is like six or seven different horror parodies all in one. The gang tells spooky stories to each other, each in a slightly different style, mirroring the personality of the storyteller. From vampires to The Human Centipede to a "more believable" version of the cliched cabin-in-the-woods story, each one of these is worth watching... although Shirley's uber pious story of the wicked being punished by demons is my very favorite.

1. Digital Estate Planning
(parodying retro video games)

This is my all-time favorite episode of Community, and I'm not even sure I can tell you exactly why. Every single joke just works for me, and I love the gimmick that they all have to play an old video game together. The old-timey avatars, electronic audio, and many gaming jokes work together to make one of the most consistently entertaining TV episodes I've ever seen. I've seen it probably about six times, and I still start giggling when Annie and Shirley accidentally set the blacksmith on fire. (I also think the Abed/Hilda subplot is completely adorable.)

If you watch Community, what are your favorite parodies from the show? Or, an alternate questions for those who don't watch it, do you have any favorite parody moments from other TV sitcoms?

Monday, September 23, 2013

Top 5, Bottom 5: Parodies and Spoofs

Parodies are hard to get right, but when they're good, they're really good. Here are my favorite and least favorite parodies, according to Flickchart.

Top 5:
1. The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra (2003, #25). One of my very favorite comedies, Lost Skeleton is a hilarious parody of bad 1950s sci fi B-movies. It gets the wooden dialogue and acting just perfect and has some of the most quotable lines ever.
2. Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975, #38). Monty Python's parody of the Arthur legend is ridiculous and silly and easily my favorite of the comedy group's full-length movies.
3. Airplane! (1980, #175). The snappy one-liners are the best reason to watch this classic. Even if one joke doesn't make you laugh, there's another one just around the corner that probably will.
4. Take the Money and Run (1969, #185). This is easily my favorite of Woody Allen's very early film, with a great series of jokes. It's also one of the earlier examples of a mockumentary before they became super popular.
5. Love and Death (1975, #253). I just rewatched this the other day, and it is so funny. Even if you're not familiar with the styles Allen is spoofing, the scenes and dialogue are funny enough on their own that you'll still enjoy them all.

Bottom 5:
1. Spaceballs (1987, #1770). I know a lot of people love this movie, but to me it showcases everything I hate about bad parody. Instead of parodying an actual movie or genre by mimicking dialogue or acting styles, it relies on lame name puns and standalone jokes that have little to do with what it claims to be parodying. Blech.
2. The Cheap Detective (1978, #1588). You know, I don't even remember anything about this movie aside from the fact that I never laughed.
3. Robin Hood: Men in Tights (1993, #1581). The entire premise of this movie seemed to be that it is intrinsically funny to put a bunch of sexual references into a Robin Hood story. That kind of anachronism can only go so far with its humor.
4. Monty Python's The Meaning of Life (1983, #1355). Monty Python manages to make favorite and least favorite. Nice. This one just has a lot of dud sketches mixed in with only one or two great ones, and then ends with one of the most unpleasant scenes I've ever seen on film.
5. Get Smart (2008, #1326). Just a lame series of jokes that were not entertaining as either a parody of the show itself or spy films and TV shows in general.

Friday, September 20, 2013

The Quest for Skye: Chapter 11

Recap: Not much happened in the last chapter. Morgan and Skye have gone dolphin-kissing, Tammy gave a miraculous speech that got her a random $280,000 donation to do her vague research at her clinic, and now I'm sure we'll return to our regularly scheduled programming of people treating Skye like she is the Messiah. I loathe everyone in this book.

Morgan and Tammy head back to their room to relax, where Tammy falls asleep, but Morgan is awakened by someone slipping two envelopes under their door. It turns out to be Skye, who has cropped and printed all of Mrs. Scott's photos and is handing them out to people. Morgan is completely amazed by this for some reason:
“Are you telling me that you spent the rest of the afternoon cropping and printing the pictures Mrs. Scott took, and now you’re distributing them?”
And, a moment later:
After reviewing the contents, Morgan’s eyes widened, and his face showed astonishment. “You did this by yourself?” 
“Yes. Came out pretty good, if I do say so myself.” Her body bounced.  
“Pretty good isn’t the word. They’re perfect.”
Who the HECK praises someone for their astonishing crop-and-print abilities? That's not exactly something that's difficult to do. To Skye's credit, she does occasionally try to point out that Mrs. Scott was the one who actually took the pictures (no doubt she says this while her body randomly bounces some more), but Morgan insists Skye get all the credit because 1) it was her camera, and 2) she cropped and printed the photos, and also because 3) possession is nine-tenths of the law. Seriously. He throws that last bit in there to tell Skye that she should enter her AMAZING photos in a contest and not give Mrs. Scott any credit. He's such a good guy.

Tammy wakes up and marvels at the photos as well, saying they look like professional photos and that Skye is amazing, except for the fact that ALL SHE DID WAS CROP AND PRINT THEM. Seriously, what do these people think "crop" means?

The story then jumps ahead to dinner hour. Both Skye and the Hamiltons have made a point of mentioning it's formalwear night on the cruise, so everyone's dressed up.
They watched the sunset in silence. Morgan reached for his wife’s hand. It was a tender, wordless moment. 
Suddenly, the quiet was shattered. “There you are,” a little voice erupted as a child leaped in front of their table.
Pah, Skye ruins everything.

She chides them for not sitting with the Leontious, then announces her decision to abandon her parents to sit with them instead. (For her father being all loving and protecting of her, he once again couldn't care less if they actually spent any time together.)

Skye then spends the next page making fun of Morgan, mocking him for his fear of water and yelling that his dolphin thought he was a bad kisser. This leads to a VERY weird couple of lines where Morgan pleads with Tammy to tell Skye that he is, in fact, a great kisser.

Fortunately, the topic changes when Skye reveals her family is abandoning her again:
“Dad, I was wondering. Will you and Mom take me line dancing in Costa Rica?”
“Line dancing?” Tammy asked.
“Yes. Father has to visit one of his clinics there. He’s scared of heights.”
After this extremely confusing section, Skye reveals she actually means zip-lining, and she reveals she's too little and light to be allowed to zip-line for real, but her father knows the guy who runs the zip-line place and as long as she has an adult with her (not on the zip-line with her, just with her) they'll let her on. My friend Jennie did a little research and revealed this is extremely unlikely, assuming Skye is pretty average nine-year-old size, as younger children can often ride zip-lines on their own, but whatever.

And check out this wonderful passage:
“Father says that I weigh so little that when I start down the run, I will end up bouncing around like I’m line dancing through the jungle. He said all of the monkeys will fall out of the trees laughing. He even thinks that the laughing hyena will literally die of laughter.”
Guys, I think Doctor Layland Leontiou might want Skye dead.

Or at the very least out of their lives.

He's certainly given Morgan enough opportunities to kidnap her. Now he wants them to take her someplace where he gleefully imagines her bizarrely bouncing through the jungle killing hyenas as a result of being too small. Never mind that that's not what would actually happen to someone who was too small to zip-line on their own (they'd just get stuck and wouldn't make it to the end of the cable), I can now only imagine Doctor L. L. as some cartoon villain plotting the death of his daughter and muttering, "Curses! Foiled again," every time she comes back alive.

Uh, and then there's a really awkward couple of lines where Skye talks about how she wishes she had breasts.

Then, thankfully, the topic moves on and Skye invites Morgan and Tammy to swim with the stingrays the next day.
“If you want, I guess we’ll come.” Morgan angled his head.
This is why you should always take a moment when you're writing to picture in your head what it would look like. Morgan angles his head, indicating... well, usually a question. Which is totally wrong here. But, more fun, it doesn't say WHICH WAY he angles his head, so for all I know he could be sharply looking up or lurching it toward Skye awkwardly or letting it drop so he could stare at his shoes. In short, there's no way to angle your head after this sentence so that it looks or feels natural.

Morgan asks Tammy if the Leontious have offered her a job, and she says no, but that she's heard rumors that they're "on the threshold of some great discovery." Maybe they involve lab experiments! Maybe they're for rare childhood diseases! We'll never know because we don't believe in being specific!
The couple decided to miss the show that night and go to bed early. It had been a busy day and tomorrow would be another exhausting one.
Well, you know, you guys don't have to hang around Skye all the time...
It was almost one in the morning when they were jolted out of bed by a loud banging on the door. Morgan hurried to see what the racket was.
Yup, it's Skye.

WHERE ARE HER PARENTS?! Seriously. You don't let your nine-year-old wander around the ship at one in the morning, especially not if she's knocking on people's doors. It's not safe or polite or... anything a kid should be doing.

(As I whined about this to my friend Jennie, her response was, "THROW HER OVERBOARD," a plan to which I can heartily agree.)

Skye drags Morgan and Tammy up to the top deck to see something, but she won't tell them what until they get there, of course, and instead of saying, "Skye, you suck, and we are sleeping," they follow her up. The Leontious are there and, upon seeing Morgan and Tammy, Malinda calmly remarks, "Looks like she woke you too." No apology. Nothing.

Again, have I mentioned how I loathe everyone in this book?

Anyway, Skye apparently discovered a comet one time, and it's going to be super bright tonight. (And she couldn't have told the Hamiltons about this at dinner and invited them to come join her... why?) The Leontious don't seem to know any more about the comet than the Hamiltons do.

Skye's a little late to her own comet-watching party because apparently she woke up Mrs. Scott too. She shows up pushing her in her wheelchair and lets her look through the telescope, and then shares the story of how she found the comet. (She got a fancy telescope for her birthday, found something that didn't fit with the star maps, called somebody at an observatory who confirmed it was a comet, and she got to name it Isaura.)

The last section in the chapter is so truly bizarre that I just have to quote the entire thing.
Mrs. Scott studied Skye. “What are your dreams, young lady? Are you going to be an astronomer when you grow up?”
Everyone was quiet as Skye pondered the question; Morgan and Tammy listened with interest.
“I don’t think so, but that’s a hard question to ask someone my age. I do have dreams, and I have lots of prayers. My dreams are only dreams. My prayers are different, because I know they’ll be answered. I’ve been asking Jesus for a miracle!”
Skye glanced at her mother and father who were standing quietly, and then her gaze shifted to Morgan and Tammy.
She reached her arms upward. “If you want your dreams to come true, you have to reach for the sky!”
Everyone watched as the young girl twirled around, hands extended skyward.
“Come on,” Skye said. “Everybody, think of a dream! Say a prayer! Reach toward the sky! Everything will turn out all right.”
Before long, nearly everyone was reaching heavenward. Even Morgan.
Yup. Skye is definitely going to start a cult.

(Chapter 12.)

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

If It's Uncoverable, It's Not Good Art

Sorry about the lack of blog on Monday! Between the women's retreat I was at all weekend and super bad arthritis, I never got around to writing anything up. Let's get back in the swing of things!

Someone recently posted a news update on the live production of The Sound of Music that NBC is airing in December. The production is set to star Carrie Underwood and Stephen Moyer, along with Broadway veterans like Audra McDonald, Laura Benanti, and Christian Borle.

A sample of a few of the comments on the blog post:
",no, no.  This is one of the most revered musicals ever to appear on the Broadway stage and Julie Andrews is iconic... If it ain't broke. don't fix it."
"I really need the remakes to stop. If we, the people, could come up with a list of movies that shouldn't be touched, this would be on it."
"Sure Carrie Underwood has a good voice and she seems likeable and what-have-you, but she is not Julie Andrews. No one is."
"What's next: ABC remaking Gone With the Wind with Lindsay Lohan in the role of Scarlett?  Leave well enough alone.  Just because networks can't find good, solid material for a film shouldn't give them license to attempt a remake of something that is already, to quote Mary Poppins, 'practically perfect in every way.' The end."
All these comments kind of really ticked me off. And I shall explain why.

This series of blog comments helped to highlight the key reason for something I've believed for a long time, that all art is coverable. This is especially controversial when it comes to songs and movies. I have heard people adamantly argue that certain artists are simply "uncoverable," or that a movie should never be remade, and I just don't think that makes any sense.

So what's this key reason I believe in this?

Because I view art from the perspective of the theater.

Theatrical art is never meant to be "one and done." The idea is for multiple productions to exist, with multiple directors, a variety of actors playing the roles, with new take after new take on the story and the content. If "iconic" performances yielded the end of the show because there simply couldn't be any more performances after that, most of the shows we see on Broadway today would have ended years and years ago. Revivals wouldn't even exist. Every show could be performed until it was excellent, and then it would have to be retired, because nobody could touch that performance.

This makes zero sense to me.

Part of the beautiful thing about theater is that every production you see is different. Taking on an iconic role is a whole new impressive level of artistry in and of itself, as you try to show off what you see in the role while playing to an audience that may only remember your predecessor. As an audience member, seeing multiple productions of the same show brings new levels of appreciation for the show itself. Each production gives me the opportunity to see a new take on it, to find new meaning, to suddenly realize the beauty of a character or a song I hadn't noticed before.

Proclaiming a show "finished" or "untouchable" because you've found your favorite version is absurd.

But people do this with songs and movies all the time.

I believe art can be bigger than the initial creator or creator's intentions. I believe it can have more depth and more meaning than the author knew, and when viewed through the lens of another artist, we can find that extra depth.

If we argue that other artists should never cover our favorites' work, what we are in essence saying is that we think there is absolutely no more to be gotten from this piece of art.

There is no secondary context a new filmmaker could pull from it.

There is no more light to be shone on that second verse.

This one finite performance is all that this piece can ever be.

In short, this piece of art is not good enough to extend beyond this performance.

I'd argue the only uncoverable songs are those that are not strong enough to stand being ripped apart from their original artists. I'd argue the only unremakable movies are the ones that rely so heavily on the charisma of the original actors that there is no substance beyond that (and, honestly, even then, it could be remade because you have the freedom to try to make it better with a rewrite).

Am I free to dislike these revamped versions, or to say that they pale in comparison to the original, or to be skeptical of their ability to improve upon the original? Of course I can do any of those things. But if that happens, it generally means one of two things. Either 1) the execution was poor anyway, and I would have disliked it even if I disliked the original, or 2) the original wasn't really that good, and seeing it through fresh eyes makes that abundantly clear.

Which brings us all back to The Sound of Music and why those comments were so infuriating.

The Sound of Music is not just a movie. It never has been. It's a movie adaptation of a stage musical. And, guess what? Since the movie adaptation, the show has been revived on Broadway, revived in London multiple times, and performed in smaller theaters everywhere. It's been reproduced everywhere because it is beloved. Saying Julie Andrews is the only one person who is ever allowed to touch that role not only is rather a nasty thing to say about Mary Martin, who originated the role on Broadway, but it's also negating all the hard work all these other theaters and productions have put into the role. Also, it just doesn't make sense. Julie Andrews is quite wonderful, but she's not perfect, and I guarantee you that someday, someone, somewhere along the way, is going to make a better acting choice as Maria than she did. And I would like to be open enough to recognize it when I see it.

In conclusion, here are a list of movie remakes I like better than the originals:
1. Sabrina (1995)
2. Freaky Friday (2003)
3. Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (1988)
4. Hairspray (2007)
5. Vanilla Sky (2001)

And a list of song covers I like better than the originals:
1. "Mad World" by Gary Jules
2. "And I'm Telling You I'm Not Going" by Jennifer Hudson
3. "El Tango de Roxanne" from Moulin Rouge!
4. "Dear Prudence" from Across the Universe
5. And, of course, let's not forget "Baby Got Back" by Jonathan Coulton

Friday, September 13, 2013

The Quest for Skye: Chapter 10

Recap: In our last episode, Skye The Perfect Girl did the following:
1) let an old woman borrow her camera, which made Morgan ECSTATICALLY impressed by her compassion, 
2) randomly gave everything she had to some Poor Jamaican Children, including some things that may not have actually been hers to give, 
3) made dolphins GO CRAZY, and 
4) told Morgan he was sad because he didn't have enough faith.

All right, we're finally done with the dolphin-kissing adventure.

We're back on the ship, starting the convention, which is going to be super fun because our author doesn't particularly care about researching any actual science and yet is going to speak about it. Whee!
“As for donations, I’m proud to announce that almost three million dollars in pledges and gifts have been raised so far on this cruise, and it’s just the third day. Thank you.”
Uh. Holy crap. Either there are a LOT more people on this cruise attending this convention than I thought (and Skye knows every one of them), or everyone here is very, very rich.

The average large cruise ship holds 3000 or so passengers. Let's assume that's the case here, and that every single one of them (except for, apparently, Morgan and Tammy) are here for the convention. That's a $1000 donation per passenger. Finding 3000 people who are invested enough in rare childhood disease that they will randomly donate $1000 can't possibly be that easy. Especially for a fundraiser that's only three years old.
When they quieted, the doctor continued. “I was going to speak on Batten disease today, but we had an unexpected guest from the United States, who by coincidence, came on board the cruise just for leisure. I managed to talk her into speaking today about her clinic in Saint Paul, Minnesota. Many of you may recall the article she wrote, Why We Are Concerned About Rare Childhood Diseases. Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome, Dr. Tammy Hamilton.”
There's that awesomely academic journal article again. "Why We Are Concerned About Rare Childhood Diseases." I love that Doctor Layland Leontiou is forgoing an actual lecture on an actual specific disease to instead introduce someone whose biggest professional credit is that she co-authored a paper indicating that rare childhood diseases are bad. Presumably this crowd knows this already, as they've each given $1000 to the cause already. Maybe she'll convince them all to give TWO THOUSAND tonight!
“If you’d asked me last week what I would be doing on the third day of this cruise, I certainly would not have predicted that I’d be speaking to a hundred of the greatest medical minds in the world.”

There's only a hundred of them?

Every single person at this convention has already donated thirty thousand dollars to the cause??

Clearly I am in the wrong field. I should have been a rare childhood disease specialist and found another one to marry. Then together we'd go on cruises and be able to give $60,000 to a charity and still have enough spending money that we'd be expected to give more.
“Each of us wants to find a cure for the horrible childhood diseases that plague the most helpless victims— our children.”
"If you're looking for the cruise for horrible childhood diseases that plague adults who can take care of themselves, that was the four-week cruise through Niagara Falls."

Tammy goes on to tell the story of a seven-year-old patient she diagnosed with Batten disease. (This is a real disease, BTW, and I suspect Skye will soon be revealed as having it.) The child died three months after the diagnosis, which, according to the website, is not terribly typical, as symptoms appearing in seven-year-olds are usually very early ones, and they would most likely live until their teens or early twenties.

She then explains what Batten disease is and how it works, despite the fact that "[t]his morning, we touched on the scientific facts about Batten disease," so THEY ALREADY KNOW ALL THIS. As she describes it, it actually sounds like an off-shoot of Batten disease, specifically late infantile NCL (LINCL) - or Jansky-Bielschowsky disease, which begins manifesting in children when they are 2-4 years old and is usually fatal by the age of ten or eleven. That fits the earlier child's symptoms as well. So we will assume that even though they just call it "Batten disease" in the book, they are referring to this specific type.

The disease really is a very sad one, with symptoms including seizures, loss of motor skills, and eventual mental impairment. By the time the disease takes their lives, children with NCL are blind, bedridden, and demented.

So Tammy finishes explaining this, and then this happens:
A hand quickly rose. “I’m Doctor Everest from the Clavin Medical Clinic in Great Britain. I’m really at a loss for words. Why is this disease so important? Why not put our efforts toward more common childhood diseases like Leukemia, Multiple Sclerosis, or Muscular Dystrophy? We could save more lives.”
In other words: "Why should we be concerned about rare childhood diseases?"


Well, it's a good thing Tammy is uniquely prepared to speak on that fact, what with that paper she wrote once. Also, it's a good thing they already got that guy's $30,000 before he figured out they were giving it all away to rare childhood diseases. Honestly, what is he even doing here if this is how he feels about it? What, did he think this rare childhood disease convention was a common childhood disease convention in disguise?
“I would suspect Dr. Everest, that if this were your child you would be doing everything in your power to find a cure, or pushing your government to put more money towards that cause.”

Tammy's uber persuasive argument boils down to, "Well, everyone is someone's child," and that convinces all the skeptics. Good thing we had her here to explain that!

A second doctor asks her where she sees herself in five years. (What the HECK kind of question is this? That's not even remotely relevant to the topic at hand, unless he's casually asking her about where she sees her research going. But I choose to think he's subtly trying to ask her out.) She says she'd like to still be a doctor. Well, that's good. Glad to know she's not randomly giving up her job after she spent all that time researching and writing about why people should care about her job.

The focus then shifts to Morgan, who is deep in thought on the van bus, and Skye, who falls asleep. I'd assume several of the other passengers are silently thanking God for a little peace and quiet after her loud, incessant chatter all the way up, but Rothdiener insists, nope, there are no introverts here: "It was obvious her chatter and playfulness were missed."

Morgan muses about faith for awhile. He decides he needs to accept that God has a plan, but he can't actually accept this, so he gives up. They arrive back at the ship and Morgan wakes Skye up.
She woke with a smile and outstretched arms. “This has been the funnest time I ever had. I’m glad I shared it with you.”
"You mean so much more to me than that dumb dad of mine."

After they get off the bus, everyone just waits around for Skye. I'm not even kidding. The entire world revolves around her, it seems. It's not until she finally gets off the bus that everyone else heads onto the ship, following her. Clearly she is in the process of creating a cult. Morgan mentally remarks that now everyone is kinder to each other, thanks to Skye being The Magical Kindest of All.

They go back and sneak into the convention, where Doctor Layland Leontiou is leading a Q&A session, but for some reason people are only asking Tammy questions, despite the fact that, judging by her earlier "lecture," she's not said anything scientifically new. She shared a personal story and then recapped everything they were told earlier. Who on earth wants to ask her questions instead of the people who, well, know stuff? Well, it helps that the questions aren't actually even vaguely scientific. They're all personal interest stuff like in a talk show interview:
“Dr. Hamilton, what’s the most challenging problem you face at your clinic?”
"Oh, I'd say the rare childhood diseases."

Kidding, her real answer is telling families when their children are going to die. She gives another impassioned speech about how every life matters and everyone is someone's child. (I hope the attendees have invented a game where they drink every time she gives this speech.)

Finally, she tells them not to give up fighting for disease cures and then decides it's time for the Q&A to be done. Seriously. She just announces it's done and leaves, despite the fact that she's not the moderator. In my mind, this is how that plays out: She says thank you and leaves as Doctor Layland Leontiou looks at his watch and tries to signal to her, no, come back, they still have like fifteen minutes left, where is she going, how else are these people going to be convinced that we should be concerned about rare childhood diseases?

Morgan, Tammy, Skye, and Doctor Layland Leontiou all reconvene outside the convention room, because apparently they're all done now.
Just then, Dr. Gosset stepped up. “Dr. Hamilton,” he said, extending his hand to Tammy. “What you said touched my heart. I’d never thought of it like that, and when I get back from this holiday, I’ll be implementing new orders to my staff. We’ll be putting more emphasis on the people.”
Good thing she gave that speech umpteen times. She may only have one thing to say to the medical profession, but she sure says it the best! He'd never even thought of children being people until her speech!

Dr. Gosset then randomly offers Tammy a $280,000 donation to her clinic. (Whew! If you include the $30,000 he statistically gave earlier, he's racking up quite a list of donations.) He gives it to her to "assist in her research," which is confusing, because she's barely mentioned her research. He has no idea if her research is making any difference at all or if it's scientifically founded or if it's already been done and rejected by a medical school in Sweden or anything about it, because literally all she has said about it is a vague reference to lab experiments.

I don't know about you, but if I were going to donate $280,000 to a clinic researching cures for a rare childhood disease, I'd want to hear just a little bit about the dang science.

Thus ends Rothdiener's approximation of what happens at a medical convention. Everyone throws money around, an impromptu speaker shares a tearjerker story and deliberately re-explains stuff that's already been said, then everybody asks personal questions of that speaker. It's not like they have the knowledge and ability to discuss, say, actual science or actual research. Nope, that couldn't possibly interest anyone. Better just keep trying to convince people they should care about rare childhood diseases. Oh, and also, everyone is someone's child. Don't forget that part.

(Chapter 11.)

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

My Top 10 Disney Songs Sung By Males

I recently watched this YouTube video over on the Geek and Sundry vloggers channel, ranking the top 10 male-sung Disney songs, and all I could think was, "Well, that was a predictable list." But it did inspire me to write my own! And maybe I'll follow it up with a list of favorite female-sung Disney songs next week.

These are my 10 favorite Disney songs performed mostly or exclusively by male characters.

It's such a simple melody, but such a catchy one. I love the combination of light and dark when it's introduced in the film. On one hand, it's a pretty light-hearted villain song, especially given that the actual singer is just teasing his wife about her awful friend all the way through. On the other, the dogs are clearly genuinely afraid of her (as they should be, of course). Cruella herself treads this light/dark line, as she's often over-the-top and campy and comedic, but at the same time a truly horrifying, cruel creature. The song is great, I love how it's used in the film, and it easily belongs in this #10 slot.

I'm not much of a fan of the Aladdin movie, but the music itself is pretty great. This is easily the best song from the movie, a tremendously exciting, adventurous song that really shows off Aladdin's happy-go-lucky personality. The pace speeds up as the song goes along, all leading to the awesome final verse, where he very nearly gets caught and just manages to escape for good. "Adventure" is really the very best word to describe why this song is so much fun.

And I am definitely not a fan of A Goofy Movie, but I think its soundtrack is seriously underrated. (In fact, it might just make another appearance on this list.) This song itself is sweet, but there's just something about the melody that really appeals to me. Every time it shows up on my iPod it makes me smile. There's nothing really that special or noteworthy about it, I just really, really enjoy it.

Beauty and the Beast is my very favorite Disney movie, and it killed me a little bit to not have enough space for Be Our Guest and The Mob Song on here, but this is (right now, anyway) my favorite song from the movie. It's a boisterous, rollicking drinking song, and every minute of it is great fun. I especially love how Gaston himself eagerly starts singing his own praises after just a minute or two.

And can I say, Gaston himself is one of the reasons I really love the whole movie - it's one of the first Disney fairy tales where the villain is meant to be better-looking than the hero. Gaston has the (slightly exaggerated) physique of the typical Prince Charming, and while that's apparently enough to captivate Ariel, Cinderella, Aurora, and Snow White, Belle sees through all that to the monster he is inside.

Another good song from a not-very-good movie. There are also a few sections where a female joins in this song, but it's still primarily male-sung, so I'm counting it. The lyrics are ever so dated, but that just makes me smile and love it more. It's just a cheerful tribute to the joys of jamming out to good music with a group of friends. The song has next to nothing to do with the actual plot of the movie, but it's absolutely the best part of it.

This movie almost was quite good. Take out the talking gargoyles and the happy ending, and the parts that focus on the actual story of Quasimodo, Frollo, and Esmeralda are gorgeous and compelling. As it is, the soundtrack is still amazing - thank you, Stephen Schwartz. This whole song is a captivating one, from the beginning when Frollo insists he stay inside, to the very last note Quasimodo sings, both hopeful and desperate to spend some time among the people he can only watch. It's a beautiful and touching song about isolation and loneliness.

When I first wrote this list, this was down at #6, but upon listening to it again, I thought, "Nope. Nope. Bump it up." The vlogger who inspired me to write this blog included Hakuna Matata and I Just Can't Wait To Be King from this movie, which, sure, are fun and cute, but how can you exclude this song? IMHO, it's the best Disney villain song of all time. Jeremy Irons may not be a terribly impressive singer, but the instrumentation and the truly masterful use of a chorus more than make up for it. The scene is visually astonishing in the movie as well. Everything from the marching hyena army on just sends chills up my spine. So, so good.

Who knew Disney could give us such an inspiring battle song? Its context in the movie is a little ridiculous, going from fail montage to "TA DA WE'RE GREAT AT FIGHTING NOW" kind of out of nowhere, but the song itself is awesome and inspirational. Listening to this makes me feel like I can take on the world and win. Once again, not a great movie, but an awesome song.

I've long held the opinion that this is perhaps the best musical animation of all time (the visuals that go along with this - dang!), but it's also a really good song just on its own. Everything in this song is just infused with joy and delight, and it's absolutely infectious. It's completely impossible for me to listen to this without feeling a little cheered up. The fact that it's #2 speaks not to its weaknesses, but to how much I love the top one.

This was probably not a surprise to anyone who knows me well, as you probably know that I freaking love this song with all my heart. It's got a couple girls singing throughout, but the primary singer is Max, so I felt OK including it on this list. I think this is one of the best songs that has ever appeared in any Disney movie, ever. The sense of joy and triumph and "I'm gonna make it!" pervading the entire song makes absolutely everything in my life feel better. While on the surface it's about the last day of school, it's also (for Max) about the fact that he's about to do something big and hopes that his whole life will change if he follows through with it.

There have been so many times throughout my life where this has been my theme song - "If I can just make it through today and what I need to do today, EVERYTHING WILL BE AWESOME." It's just not possible to overstate my love for this song. I've loved it since I first heard it years and years ago and I love it today. One of my top feel good songs, and, by far, my favorite male-sung Disney song.

Honorable Mention: Not In Nottingham from Robin Hood, The Bare Necessities from The Jungle Book, and Strangers Like Me from Tarzan, all of which I love a lot... just not quite enough. Also, as mentioned above, Be Our Guest and The Mob Song.

What are your favorite Disney songs sung by men? Are there any on my list you just can't stand? In general, do you think the guys or the girls in Disney movies get better songs?

Monday, September 9, 2013

Oh, How About Some Quotes?

Let's go with something light and entertaining today. I used to just keep lists of quotes that entertained me, from movies, TV shows, books, or real life. I haven't done that in awhile, but let's look at some of the ones I saved from 2011. I tried to pull out the ones that work best out of context, so you shouldn't *have* to know any of these shows or people to find them entertaining.

Quotes From Other Media

Avery: Quit? I never quit on anything in my life. I’m still in Girl Scouts. I have 9000 badges.
--30 Rock

Liz: That's my favorite drink! I keep a thermos of it by my toilet! You misheard me!
--30 Rock

(Amy is clearly very attracted to Penny's ex, but doesn't realize it yet.)
Amy: I’m flushed, my palms are clammy, my mouth is dry, and I keep involuntarily saying, “Oh!”
Penny: We know what’s causing that, don’t we?
Amy: Well, obviously I have the flu along with sudden onset Tourette’s Syndrome.
--The Big Bang Theory

Shirley: Pulp Fiction? I saw it on an airplane once. It’s cute. It’s a 30-minute movie about a group of friends who like cheeseburgers, dancing, and the Bible.

Boss: We’ve had concerns about how you’re handling the traffic report.
Jane: I told you, I need to have creative input!
Boss: Sometimes you change the names of streets.

Wilma: She really does exist, this girlfriend?
Jeff: Oh, yes, she exists! She’s very much an existent person! She’s got tons of existence! Well, not TOO much existence. I don’t mean she’s huge or anything. She’s somewhere between completely imaginary and a truck.

(About Benjamin Gates from National Treasure)
He lives in a world where everyone who was ever famous achieved all of history as a hobby in between hiding things.

Doctor: We’re in a room.
Rory: What room?
Doctor: I don’t know! I haven’t memorized every room in the universe yet. I had yesterday off.
--Doctor Who

Today, I was in my building’s elevator. On one floor, a huge, weird looking guy with a bulldog got on. He yelled, "Sit!", which I did without hesitation. He was talking to his dog. He giggled for the remaining 10 floors.

(During a trial)
Bash: Judge Douglas, our D.A. would have you believe that our clients are merely two women with drop-dead legs who dance the night away for a living.
Franklin: These beautiful girls are successful entrepreneurs who built their rockin’ pole business from the ground up. They’re not running with the devil.
Janie: Your Honor, they’re using Van Halen song titles as a defense.
Franklin: You really got me.
--Franklin and Bash

Codex: I’m not stupid. I’m just ignorant about things I don’t RSS.
--The Guild

House: You took an oath. An oath to be cool. At least, that was the one I mumbled under my breath while everyone else was doing the boring one.

Patient’s Wife: (About something the team found in their house) That’s impossible. You must have broken into the wrong house.
Thirteen: Then you have creepy neighbors, because there were pictures of you and your kids everywhere.

Ben: We’re friends! You live here! I made you a sandwich that one time! …Or, rather, you made me a sandwich and I didn’t like it and I gave it back to you.
--Mr. Sunshine

Today, I learned that the smell of fresh cut grass is actually the grass sending out a chemical distress signal, So that smell is really your lawn screaming in agony. Mowing the yard just got so much better.

Yesterday, I came home late, and decided to take a shower. I didn't want to wake up my parents, so I tried to be really quiet and kept the water cold so I wouldn't wake them up. It wasn't until I spent the first few minutes shivering that I realized that taking a cold shower wasn't any quieter than a hot one.

Q: If you drained a pint of blood from a new born baby would the baby survive?
A: Google says that a newborn baby has only 1/2 pint (one cup) of blood total. This seems to vary by body weight and the amount apparently rises sharply in the first 24 hours after birth, but that's the gist.
So yes, draining twice the amount of blood it has would kill it.
--NaNoWriMo forums

Michael: I am a huge Woody Allen fan, although I have only seen Antz.
--The Office

Virginia: It’s a bad idea for a baby to play with a doll that’s the same age as she is. She might think it’s unfriendly. Or dead.
--Raising Hope

This will end by this being the book that every house has in their living room on the coffee table, book shelf or half open on the couch. The book every pastor and synogogue will have on display across the world. I would be sadly dissapointed if this book didn’t sell 100 billion copies in the first 5 years.
Hmmm … 100 billion copies for a world population of 7 billion. So, each and every person in the world is going to buy 14 copies? Seems reasonable.
--Slushpile Hell

Dahlia: Your room’s so small. It’s even smaller than the rest of the house.
Tessa: That’s generally how it works. The rooms in the house are smaller than the house so they can fit them in. My dad’s an architect.

In this forum post, somebody asserts that all the great advances of history have been made by 1 in 100 billion people. Considering that 100 billion is a fair estimate of the total number of human beings who have ever been born, the assumption is probably unsound.
--TV Tropes

You know that button in the elevator with a fireman’s hat on it? Turns out that’s NOT the button you push to order a fireman’s hat.

This Valentine's, surprise her with a Christmas present.

Most maligned group ever: well-groomed, dapper nerf herders.

"God knew them in the womb." #JesusJuke I want to say to friends who brag about how long they've known about Mumford & Sons

Honestly, I don't mold NEARLY enough. #imoldenough

Only in L.A.... I just saw a sign that said, “Welcome to Los Angeles.”

Just heard TV on the Radio on the radio on the Internet.

I like big butts too, but I could probably lie about it if necessary.

He was voiced by a black is it okay for Darth Vader to say the n-word? #thoughts

Meanwhile a lonely Lord Gaga waits at home on their estate, watching birds and supervising the gardeners.

Obamacare is also an anagram for "A ear am cob" proving that Obama has poor grammar and is illogical. An ear of corn can't also be a cob!

Today is Friday? What? What was yesterday? What comes afterwards? If only there was someone who could answer these difficult questions!

Wilfred: We’ll just stay here and play Battleship.
Ryan: You cheat at that too.
Wilfred: Battleships change position in the middle of a war, Ryan. It’s what they were designed to do!

Stuff From If You Watch It Backwards, Which Pretty Much Was Only Around In 2011

If you watch Superman backwards, it is about a guy who flies around, putting people into precarious situations, then hiding.

If you watch Saw backwards, it is a truly amazing and touching story about one man providing countless limbs for the disabled.

If you watch Transformers backwards, it’s about a boy having to take his car back to the showroom after it turns out to be a robot.

If you watch Lord Of The Rings backwards, it’s about a midget that finds a cool ring in a volcano and then spends the rest of the films walking home.

If you watch 127 Hours backwards, it's a lovely film about a disabled man finding an arm in the desert.

If you watch The Exorcist backwards it’s about a girl who’s very sick until she eats some pea soup and finally gets better.

If you watch Snow White backwards, it's about a woman's abusive boyfriend giving her the Kiss of Death and forcing her to live with dwarfs.

If you watch your birth backwards, you see your parents get really excited as the doctors push you into your mom, getting rid of you forever.

Quotes From People I Actually Know

(During a chat session)
Anna: john asked me if there were monkees on the streets in africa
Anna: and why did i spell that like the band

Dad: I didn't know the Queen's name was Elizabeth.
Mom: Yes, Elizabeth II.
Dad: So we are living in Elizabethan England. Wait, no we are not, we are living in the United States!

Mom: Go upstairs and take a shower, and put on clean clothes, and hot water, and lots of clothes.

Elizabeth: You’re wearing a pink shirt!
Me: Uh, it’s purple.
Elizabeth: No, it’s red!

Elizabeth: Bekah was trying to ask me something in sign language and I thought she was saying "Open your heart to y'all" but she said "How are you?" Wow, I need to work on my sign language!

Mom: I love these tissues with Vicks in them. You should rub Vicks on your chest if you are congested.
Elizabeth: Wait, we're supposed to rub these tissues on our chest? Before or after we use them?

Heather: Today I said, "Thing I never screw up: Meat sauce. Thing I always screw up: Relationships. At least I succeed at the one that keeps me alive." Hannah Megill said, "I must now make a chick flick about a girl who has found true love but can't make meat sauce, so her soul is still empty."

Miles: Just got my binary math exam back, and I got a 101! Now I'm depressed, because that technically means I got a 5%....

Eric: Do you ever have your typewriter sitting on your desk in front of your monitor, and when you go to type on your computer you type on your typewriter instead? It can't be just me, can it?
Ross: Don't you just hate it when you try and play your iPod through your gramophone?

Carrie: The real drawback of winning a $900 guitar is that I'm scared to take it anywhere. I just KNOW that a baffling unexpected chain of events will lead directly to me scratching the finish a little. And then accidentally spilling battery acid on it and setting it on fire and dropping it off a ten-story building just as the world's first elephant race is due to start on the street below.

(In one of my education classes)
Tyler: When I took the Praxis, I was right on the Average/Great line. So I was borderline great.
Me: You should start introducing yourself to people like that. “Hi, I’m Tyler. I’m borderline great.”
Perry: With your students. “I am borderline great, so be prepared to be borderline amazed.”

Carrie: Today's best auto-generated tweet: "You should follow yourself. I am the original, I invented the fighter jet."
Me: That site's addictive. One of my favorites today read: "Watched Soylent Green for the hovercrafts." Which must have been disappointing, because there are no hovercrafts in Soylent Green.
Carrie: I watch everything for the hovercrafts. It makes life a constant disappointment.

Me: It kind of smells down here. Can we Febreze it?
(Joel goes into the laundry room and emerges a minute later.)
Joel: I can’t find any. Will Pam work?

Mom: Sometime next year, I will pass the point where I’ve spent half my life married. Dad’s already past that. He says it’s because he’s been married longer than I have.

Dad: Oh! There’s not any milk! I guess I’ll just leave my bowl of sugar out.
Me: You’re eating sugar and milk?
Dad: I meant my bowl of cereal.
Me: That didn’t sound like a healthy breakfast.

Mom (To Dad): I’m writing a post on “How to Make Your Husband Feel Special.” I can’t talk to you right now.

Bethany: I’ve been having trouble starting the car.
Me: Yeah?
Bethany: Yeah, I think I’m turning the key far enough, but then I put it in park and it won’t go anywhere.

Carrie: I really wish I was physically capable of tanning, just so that some day someone would say "Wow, you're tan from the sun" so I could reply "No, I'm Carrie from the Earth."

Dad: I keep referring to "existential phenomenology". Elizabeth calls it "exponential mah-nah-mah-nah".

Joshua: My six year old sister Lidya: "I remember this one time when Mom and I were in a place where there was no WiFi, and then We fell into a cactus." Um... I think this was a dream.

Dad: OK, I'm listening to Line 'Em Up by James Taylor and I don't understand the lyrics. What do they mean, anyone who knows?
Me: Do they seem to be about lining things up?
Dad: Well, the chorus is:
            Line 'em up
            Line 'em all up
            Line 'em up
            Line 'em all up
            Line 'em up
            Line 'em all up
            Line 'em up
            Line 'em all up
            So I guess that's a possibility :-)

Dad: (Playing a computer game) I’m just killing myself in various ways.
Mom: May I suggest you don’t do that?
Dad: OK, I’ll try to kill myself in the same way all the time.

(Jacob's joined me and Lisa on, and is asking if there was anything in particular he should or shouldn’t play.)
Lisa: Don't! Pick anything your heart desires.
Jacob: I searched "anything your heart desires" and it came up with "touch of my woman", which is awkward.

Eric: Apparently, 200 friends is the minimum number that Facebook thinks one should have. I've been trimming my friend list little by little and finally got below 200 (from I think 450 or so). Now I have "Find Friends" links appearing everywhere. And now you know. Also, congrats on making the cut. You may print out this status update and frame it as proof that I either (1) value interaction with you, (2) haven't seen you on G+, or (3) haven't noticed you yet to delete you. Feel important now? You're welcome.
Me: It's going to suck for the people who fall into category 3, comment and say, "Yay, I made it!" and then immediately get deleted.
Eric: See, it's that kind of thinking that keeps you on my list!

Mom: One Praise was a sweet time of worship. Big thanks to all those who worked to put it together!! Now, if we only had heat in my bedroom I'd be just about as happy as a camper could be!!!
Me: Would a camper be happy if you had heat in your bedroom? Wouldn't a camper be sleeping outside anyway? :-P
Mom: Well, with the comfort that comes with our house, it's sort of LIKE sleeping outside, no matter what!
Dad: So we seem to have concluded that you're already as happy as a camper could be, but that with heat you'd be *happier* than a camper could be.
Mom: Can we JUST translate that to I'D LIKE HEAT IN MY BEDROOM!!!

Dad: Kate wanted our kids to get something for her, and then forgot what it was. Her new attempt: "Would you ... er ... go into my room and search for something that looks like I might want it, and bring it to me?"

(About AC/DC)
Elizabeth: It sounds like Donald Duck singing.

Friday, September 6, 2013

The Quest for Skye: Chapter 9

Recap: Morgan and Skye are going to Jamaica to kiss dolphins. Skye is still perfect, except it appears she believes in Atlantis.

Skye and Morgan get onto a van, where Skye, of course, knows the van driver and scolds him for his hurting ankle.
She moved close to his face. “I keep telling you, you’re too old to be sliding in to home plate. You need to find something else to do. Have you ever thought about chess?” 
Morgan tried not to laugh. 
“Chess?” the driver asked. 
“Yes, I can beat my father seven out of ten times.”
OK. Skye needs to do the following things if she wants to be worthy of all the praise she receives.

1) Learn about personal boundaries and not get all up in people's faces.
2) Stop bossing people around about how they should live their lives.
3) Figure out when it's appropriate to brag about how awesome she is at chess and when it's just a bizarre non sequitur.

All of this would have been acceptable in a normal child, but since the author clearly doesn't want Skye to be seen as a normal child, then, fine, we will judge her according to his ridiculously high standards. And she just keeps falling short.

Skye introduces herself to everyone on the van, and then tells Morgan the life story of their fellow van passenger Mrs. Scott, who is taking this cruise in memory of her husband, who always wanted to go on a cruise with her but never got around to it before he passed away.

Eventually the van stops and everyone hikes up Dunn's River Falls. Skye mocks Morgan for going so slowly. Because, again, she thinks the best way to help him face his fears is to mock his fearful reaction when he encounters them.
Eager Jamaicans were selling products they made, adding a little income to improve their simple lives.
Whoa. That's... a horribly condescending way to put that. "Income" is just a way to "improve their simple lives"? Um, in most places, income is kind of necessary to live a life at all, period. And, really, why would one need to justify anyone selling touristy products at a tourist destination anyway?

We are reminded again that Skye is The Best Person Ever because she purchases a handmade wristband from some Poor Simple Jamaican Children, even though, as the author helpfully tells us, "nothing was worth buying."

OK, now this section is where I get confused. They drove in their van, got out of the van, hiked up the waterfall, then at the top of the waterfall they get into a bus van (the book jumps back and forth between the two) to go to the "dolphin exhibit" - apparently the dolphins live a bus ride's distance from the top of a waterfall. That's not the confusing part, though. The confusing part is Mrs. Scott, who was there in her wheelchair on the van, and then there in her wheelchair on the bus at the top of the waterfall.

How did she get up there?

The author named the waterfall, so I googled it to see if it's handicap accessible, but, nope, it's not. The only way up is to hike up the slippery rocks, during which everyone has to hold hands so they don't slide. Not exactly a situation that lends itself to someone carrying a woman and her wheelchair all the way up there.

She just mysteriously appears in the bus at the top of the waterfall, and Skye takes charge from there, dismissing Carlos, who was going to help her around.
The elderly woman looked at Morgan, smiling. “Thank you, Child. I’d love for you to call me Grandma. You’re such a blessing, Dear.”
Ooer, the bad writing. It makes it seem like even though Skye's the one offering to help Mrs. Scott, it seems it's Morgan she really has her eye on, even insisting he call her Grandma.

Skye pushes her to the bridge overlooking the dolphin, then gives the old woman a hug, proclaiming it to be from Mrs. Scott's late husband. Then she lets Mrs. Scott borrow her camera, which COMPLETELY BLOWS MORGAN AWAY.
Morgan’s eyes were fixed on the scene. He was amazed by what he’d just witnessed. Rarely had he seen such an act of selflessness in his life.
When I told my friend Jennie about this, her response was, "Camera != kidney."

Seriously, if letting someone take pictures with your camera is the ultimate act of selflessness, everyone I know is a saint. Morgan seriously needs to make some new friends and get some perspective on what's a life-changing act of selflessness and what's just, ya know, sweet and friendly.
The man at the ticket booth asked, “One or two tickets?”
“Just one for the little girl here,” Morgan replied readily.
“Dad, you’re coming, too.”
He smiled at the man. “I’m Dad,” he offered with a guilty look.
"HA HA HA, I AM TOTALLY HER FATHER. I mean, you see how she called me Dad. And I am a grown man with her, so who else could I be but her father?" Way to not sound guilty and suspicious at all, Morgan.
A young man in the water spoke. “My name is Simon, and this is Kami. We’re going to teach you about these incredible dolphins, and show you some commands we use to control them.” For the next several minutes, they were taught how to handle the dolphins safely. They were also told what various hand commands meant.
Again, this is terrible writing that is so easy to fix. And if it was fixed, it wouldn't sound like Simon and Kami are just being taught for the first time how to control dolphins. Here, look how easy it is to fix this: "For the next several minutes, the audience were taught how to handle the dolphins safely." Ta-da! I did it in like two seconds. And now you can read that paragraph without getting confused.

So Skye gets to swim with the dolphins and kiss them. Morgan watches and is like, "Aww," but it's never stated whether he himself swims as well. I'd assume not, because of his whole paralyzing-fear-of-water thing, but there's not a scene where Skye makes fun of him for it, so maybe he does.

As they leave, Skye's dolphin GOES BALLISTIC and desperately tries to get her attention, and all the dolphin trainers are like, "She never does this! You must be special! You must be a mermaid!"
Morgan stood speechless. Who is this child? Is there anything normal about her? She remembers everyone’s name and all about them. She attracts people like a magnet wherever she goes. I mean, even to the point that a dolphin would exhibit extreme behavior after spending time with her because it didn’t want her to leave. Bewildered, he scratched his head.
Oh my gosh, just reveal that Skye is Jesus and be done with it.

They leave the dolphin exhibit, go back to get Skye's camera from Mrs. Scott, and then Skye chastises Morgan for looking sad.
“Well, look at you. The whole world is ours to explore and enjoy! There is no time to be sad.”
Cue music:

“Things happen in peoples’ lives that cause them to be sad. Nothing can be done about that. Nothing!” 
Everyone in the van had quieted. There were no distractions around them.
Except for the distraction of, ya know, everyone listening to them. I don't feel like Morgan is quite in the right mood to launch into a discussion of why he is sad.

Skye tells him that Jesus can fix his sadness. Morgan is skeptical. Skye accuses him of lacking faith.
“I may be young,” Skye said, “but I’m not dumb. My father calls me a spider web. I catch everything that comes my way. I know you and Mom can’t have babies. Remember what Jesus said about that?” 
Morgan felt a heaviness in his chest. “No, I don’t. What did Jesus say about it?” 
“He talked about living each day by faith,” Skye said. “You know, becoming like a child.”
First of all, I'm not sure what Bible verses she's referring to when she talks about "living each day by faith." The becoming like a child part is almost certainly referring to Matthew 18:1-5, where he talks about being like children, but it doesn't seem to be referencing faith at all, but humility. There are several other verses I can find that refer to living by faith, but none of them were said by Jesus himself, and none of them refer to children.

(Any of my more Bible-savvy friends who want to do a bit more digging can help me a bit with it.)

Secondly, no, this does not relate to his problem. You can't say, "Jesus talks about people not being able to have babies. You want to know what he says? HAVE FAITH," when that's not what Jesus was talking about at all. It's misleading, but, worse, it's blaming him for being sad about something that he can't control. He and his wife are grieving bad news they just discovered. My gosh, let them grieve. Tell them God will comfort them, tell them God grieves with them, but don't tell them that they're grieving because they lack faith. That's the least comforting advice ever.

Fortunately, Morgan doesn't really have to respond, because Skye makes them stop the bus again by the Poor Simple Jamaican Children and gives them everything she has. (Including towels she got from the ship, which I'm not entirely sure are hers to give, but whatever.) It's the first thing she's done that I find admirable.
Everyone saw this kind, caring act. Many shed a tear, including Morgan. An act of kindness by a little nine-year-old girl to the less fortunate humbled those who were blessed enough to see it.
If there was ever a moment to really gush over Skye, this would be it, but nope, we get a fairly subdued (for this book) description. Letting an old woman borrow your camera is an extremely rare act of selflessness, complimenting people makes you divinely gifted with compassion, and not playing video games means she lives every day to the fullest, but giving away everything you have on you to a group of poor kids, that's just a regular old simple "act of kindness."

I feel like their priorities are slightly off.

Skye gets back in the van and, exhausted by her kindness, falls asleep immediately.

And thus ends Chapter Nine.

(Chapter 10.)

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Why Are Fictional Females So Boring?

This is an old blog that I wrote a year or two ago and just never got around to posting, but I figured, in light of the I Hate Strong Female Characters blog going around, I wanted to share a few similar thoughts on the matter.

As a woman, I generally am really, really bored by female characters in movies and TV.

There are two kinds of women in these stories:

1) The traditionally feminine woman who spends most of her time in pursuit of girly things (shopping, boys, fashion), or

2) The butt-kicking woman who spends most of her time fighting against the stereotypes! She argues back with the men in her life and shocks them because she is a WOMAN! She kills vampires better than anyone else and this shocks everyone because she is a WOMAN! She runs a television show and all the problems she deals with are because she is a WOMAN!

And neither of those have anything to do with me, because for both of those characters, their defining characteristic is still the fact that they are a woman.

In reality, very little of my time is spent being either actively feminine or actively unfeminine. Most of the time, my womanness is actually pretty far from my mind. When I'm dealing with a problem, the fact that I'm dealing with it as a female hardly EVER comes up. It's not because gender stereotyping doesn't happen - of course it does. But my life is made up of so much more than traditionally feminine or traditionally masculine activities.

A friend once pointed out to me that a mutual acquaintance always related everything she said to her major, especially when she was making a serious point. She'd start off every sentence with, "As a [whatever] major..." It was like she felt she had to pull those credentials and filter everything she said through them to make it more valid.

I feel like all these Strong Female Characters are doing just that. "As a woman, I think..." The ending of that sentence may be different from the beginning of it, but both they and the traditional "non-strong" female characters view absolutely everything through that single filter.

But honestly, as a woman myself, my thoughts and opinions aren't run through that filter very often. It varies depending on my circumstances and the people around me, but generally, it's far more likely that I'll have cause to say, "As a Christian..." or "As an introvert..." These days, my "woman" filter becomes important about as often as my "homeschooler" filter, my "theater lover" filter, and my "I have arthritis" filter. (Actually, probably less often than the last two.)

Media women don't seem to have these other filters. They seem to view everything through the "woman" filter - and, conveniently, only deal with issues that SHOULD be dealt with through that filter. They're constantly encountering openly, blatantly sexist people, or fighting with themselves about whether or not they want babies, or fighting to claim authority.

Compare this to male characters, who nearly always have more than one filter. "As a man" is joined by "as a jock," "as a teacher," "as a Republican," "as someone who may or may not have Asperger's." This makes them much more relatable. Someone who has introvert, nerd, AND nice person filters is much more similar to me than someone who only has the woman filter in place. So most of the characters I identify with in movies and television are male.

My all-time favorite fictional female is Daria Morgendorfer. She defied female stereotypes by... not really working that hard to defy female stereotypes. She threw off the societal demand that she be a typical female as she did with ALL other societal demands. In a lesser comedy, ALL the jokes would revolve around the fact that she didn't wear makeup or fashionable clothes. In this show, Daria's sister does make a big deal out of it... but Daria hardly ever fights back with a giant rant about women being brainwashed by the fashion industry. She just shrugs and ignores it, because she knows it really isn't a big deal what people expect of her. She's going to do her own thing, whether they want her to or not.

Over the series, all sorts of things happen. Daria gets lectured for not having plans for after high school. Daria works to be the peacekeeper between her fighting parents. Daria sits with her best friend and makes fun of both the shallow guys and shallow girls at her school. Daria resists the need to make friends. Daria develops hopeless crushes. (Or, well, at least one.)

And, guess what? None of that really has much to do with whether she's a woman or not. She doesn't deal with it in a particularly feminine OR unfeminine way. She deals with it like a person with multiple layers.
She deals with it like *I* would.

I connect very much to Daria. But I would never say, "I connect to Daria because we're very similar as women." Technically, we are, but it's so much more than that. We're similar as snarkers (is that a word? It is now), as students, as friends, as sisters (my dynamic with my sister Elizabeth has sometimes been more similar to Daria and Quinn than either of us are proud of), as introverts, as quiet people, as cynics, as writers. Even if she wasn't female at all, s/he would still be my favorite fictional character of all time. (Well... Cyrano de Bergerac might actually win that title, but it'd be close.)

And that is why I am bored of female characters and female-centric movies and TV shows, whether they are chick flicks or action thrillers. I have nothing in common with those women, other than the fact that we happened to be born with the same body parts. And I feel like a friendship, even with a fictional character, should be built on a LITTLE bit more than that.

Monday, September 2, 2013

My Introversion Meltdown (And An Attempt to Redeem It)

So. Let's flashback quickly to Friday, August 23rd. Life was good, life was fine, I was having a good weekend, visiting for a couple days with a friend I hadn't seen awhile.

And then this article existed.

It's called "15 Unmistakable, Outrageously Secret Signs You're an Extrovert," and, while I suspect it's meant as a humorous piece, it's a mean humorous piece, and it haunted me.

Haunted me as in it set off an anxiety attack and I cried on and off for the next several hours. As in I couldn't get to sleep that night. As in all the horrible things I'd thought about myself in high school came flooding back into my mind, making me suddenly extremely insecure in everything I did. As in for like a week and a half afterward, I would get really unexpectedly scared and insecure any time anyone mentioned anything that related to my introversion.

I'm sure it didn't help that it was a week of fighting off depression anyway, but it's been years since I felt that uncertain of myself. Every time I did something, the words of that article came flooding back to me:

You know who was an extrovert? Jesus Christ.
The Christian life is meant to be a social one, and if you spend all this time alone or apart from people, how are you ever going to make a difference in the world? You're going to get to the end of your life and it's going to mean nothing. Everything you've done so far is nothing.

(You're an extrovert if) You seem OK; those around you do not constantly feel the need to ask, “Are you OK?”
Because you're obviously not OK. And what you do and feel is not OK. And everyone knows it. That's why they keep asking.

(You're an extrovert if) People like you.
People don't like you, Hannah. People are tired of you. People just wish you would be normal and not go into hiding all the time.

(You're an extrovert if) You don’t ruin camping trips, birthday parties, Christmas parties, office parties, bachelor parties, bachelorette parties, murder mystery parties, anniversary parties, bonfires, sleepovers, vacations, group projects, brunches, lunches, bridal showers, baby showers, concerts, and road trips simply by being yourself.
All those times you pushed yourself and went to parties? You shouldn't have. Because you ruined them. Just like you thought. You're just never going to have friends. And people are never going to like you. They always wish you would just go away and stay home where you clearly belong.

I wanted to respond to this, but I didn't even know how. For one thing, every time I tried to say anything about it, I just cried and cried (even now, I'm crying as I write this because, HOLY CRAP, typing out my inner thoughts is awful sometimes). And I hated that I was so upset about this... but, ya know, when you've spent your whole life believing you're broken, and then you find out you're not, and then somebody else comes along and manages to verbally express all your deepest unspoken fears from your earlier years... turns out sometimes you're not as done fighting that inward battle as you thought you were.

My second reason for not knowing how to address this was that it is so obviously wrong. The mean, angry venom is so transparently, needlessly present that it seemed pointless to go through it all. If I went through this list and explained why nearly everything on this list was horrible and awful, I can't imagine a single one of my friends ever arguing the other side.

And that's when I figured out where to find some comfort.

It was in the fact that my extroverted friends are nothing like this.

While many of my close friends are introverts, I do have quite a few good friends who are extroverts as well, and none of them would ever say anything like this to me or think this about me.

While the author of that article clearly resented introverts for some reason, my extroverted friends certainly don't resent me. They may be confused by me from time to time but they're not mad at me for who I am.

Since it was pointless to go through the article explaining why it's wrong, but since I still felt like I wanted to use it to say something, I wanted to turn it into something redemptive. In the interest of recovering from my meltdown and focusing on the good, I wanted to thank my extrovert friends for, ya know, not being anything like this. Because it's not extroverts that are are obnoxious and mean. Obnoxious and mean people are obnoxious and mean.

So, without further ado:

My Top 10 Favorite Things I Love About My Extrovert Friends
(Obviously not all my extrovert friends fit all these qualities. But they certainly have a lot of these in common.)
1. They really are a lot of fun.
2. Even if I haven't talked to them in awhile, they're still happy to talk to me and catch up.
3. If I'm going through something and need someone to talk to, I don't have to worry that I'm interrupting their alone time.
4. They are a complete blessing during socially awkward events. I can just latch on to one of them and weather the storm.
5. If I do decide I want to get outside my comfort zone and try something new and scary, they're more than willing to try it with me and walk me through it.
6. They get enthusiastic when I get enthusiastic, even if it's about a topic they don't really care about.
7. They can make me feel like they really care about me and like me in a very short amount of time. (It is not uncommon for extroverts to proclaim their platonic love for me very quickly. I used to mistrust that, but I've learned that, no, a lot of the time, they do genuinely like people that quickly.)
8. They're often very open about themselves - if we manage to get into a deep discussion, I feel like I learn so much about them and who they are.
9. They'll listen to me talk about anything and offer feedback. (I'm not sure where this "extroverts can't listen" stereotype came from. Introverts listen well because they're not rushing to talk, while extroverts listen well because they like getting to know people.)
10. They do accept who I am and are beautifully understanding when I need some time alone or can't handle a hug right now. When they get to this point, I can honestly consider them my friends and feel safe around them.

As a last note, my non-introvert friends, if I ever, ever make you feel inferior or looked down on with my introversion posts, please, please tell me. They're meant to be about offering support to a group of people who may just now be learning (like I have been) that we don't suck, and if it ever veers into "and that is why the other side sucks" territory, that's not what I meant at all. I love you guys.