Observations on a June afternoon

The fence that was damaged from last year’s snowstorm is still sitting in the garden in rusted pieces. A couple trees still mark the boundary between our yard and theirs, but the damage from the felled pines lingers. Fortunately, the hammock trees are still up. Perfect for a breezy afternoon.

Cars whiz past in a rush to go from one light to the next. Each car has a unique story to it, I can only imagine. The blue van is running late for Grandma’s birthday. The gray sedan is picking her date up for a picnic in the park. A whole slew of cars are rushing past to get to an important business meeting…on a Sunday. The gears of capitalism never stop, I suppose.

A dog barks on the other side of the school, but only for a few moments. Perhaps he scared the people off. Or she.

The gentle breeze tickles my nose and my eyelashes. The hairs on my legs stand up as it picks up for an instant. My hammock rocks oh so slightly, enough to lull a peaceful writer into an afternoon nap…

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Alanna: The First Adventure

I’m not exactily in the mood for clever titles this time. Alanna rocked my socks off, and I want to share it with y’all.

Tamora Pierce’s Alanna: The First Adventure follows Allana of Trebond on her journey to defy the norms by switching places with her brother to become a knight of the kingdom of Tortall. In a world where women are expected to learn how to be proper ladies, Alanna has to use her brains and perserverence to rise abover her peers, hold her own against bullies and intimidating teachers, and explore her Gift (her connection to magic) while keeping her identity a secret.

Pierce’s books have inspired countless young girls to push through the murky patriarchy of the modern world with honor and confidence. Alanna earns the trust of her fellow pages and her teachers through her actions, whether she’s holding up for her friends or standing up for herself.

Another of Pierce’s strengths is her worldbuilding. Rarely does it feel like raw exposition. Readers can trust that places or people mentioned in passing will return in the future, be it the intricacies of palace life, the seedy underworld of the capital, or how magic works.

As I continue reading the Song of the Lioness (there’s four books total), I’m sure my reviews will get longer. I can only hope that, much like Alanna, the tone of the books will develop alongside the audience that grew up reading them as they came out.

 

If you’ve read Alanna: The First Adventure, let me know what your thoughts are. Share if you liked it!

I’m always looking for new stories, no matter the medium. If you know of any great books, movies, or video games that you absolutely love, let me know in the comments and, if I haven’t checked it out, I’ll add it to the list!

And he’s back in the game!

I took a long, long break from writing. I wrote here and there, but it was never anything substantial. Between joining a more traditional 9 to 5 job and working on my mental health, writing took a backseat.

During this time, I learned a few things about myself:

  • Therapy does wonders for me.
  • I need writing in my life at the end of the day.
  • In order to write, I need to read.
  • I may have a lot of interests, but they help make me a more well-rounded person.

Getting back into writing more regularly will be challenging, but I know I’m up for it. Expect two posts per week; some combination of a blog post, new story, or a review.

It’s good to be back.

January

It’s been a while, I know. There’s lots to write about, but not just yet. As I start to get back into actively using this site, I’m planning on writing an update blog post and a review. For now, however, I thought I’d share this.  I looked back through some of my previous work, and this attempt at poetry stood out to me. Enjoy!

The air bites my skin and fills my ears with every gust

As I carry groceries from the car,

The sign from the store still lingering

‘Now hiring, inquire inside.’

It’s been nearly a week since I got the call.

Their loss, I’m supposed to think.

You got their attention, didn’t you?

Three whole interviews!

This was supposed to be my new start.

The red door squeaks open, louder than usual.

There’s a deafening quiet to the cramped foyer.

I drop my keys into my bag.

Mail’s here. None for me. Up the steps I go.

3+ years of experience. New beginnings.

That practice isn’t covered under your plan.

New member discounts through the 15th.

Tell me how you handle feedback.

There’s nothing new about this. I’ve heard it all before.

Stray dead leaves flutter on the branches

outside my window, toughing out the winter.

If you can call this winter. It’s barely snowed.

When did winters lose their longevity?

I could start tomorrow with them doing…something.

What’s a good song to learn first?

3+ years of experience. Again.

My room is a mess. Some tea sounds nice.

I suppose it’s all too new to judge, but still…

Nostalgia in Film

Musicals are tricky. Because they’re not super popular like Star Wars or Harry Potter, there’s a financial risk involved with it. When done properly, however, they’re worth the risk.

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La La Land’s premise is almost too simple, following two love-struck artists struggling to make it in Los Angeles. Through failed auditions and soul crushing record deals, Mia and Sebastian’s dreams are what carry them through their time together. They challenge each other to be true to their passions, even when the unforgiving nature of show business beats them into the ground.

La La Land is one of those movies that’s great because of how it was made more than the story itself. Most of the songs are done in one uncut take, which adds a certain energy to each scene. Costumes and locations are designed in such a way to infuse the urban sprawl of L.A. with bright nostalgia, paying homage to classic films and iconic landmarks around the city. Ryan Gosling had to learn to play piano for the film. Emma Stone and Gosling were both singing on set. The effort that went into making this movie shows, and that’s probably why it works as well as it does.

It’s rare to find a movie-musical that’s so grounded, positive, and all around inspiring to dreamers everywhere. Flitting between whimsical and painful with relative ease, the movie is engaging from start to finish. The characters are somewhat lacking in true depth, but the theme of dreaming in spite of all is a driving force into this movie and somehow more timely than ever.

I’ll keep it short this week, seeing as the actual story isn’t all that complicated. If you get the chance to check out La La Land, I highly encourage it.

 

If you’ve seen La La Land, let me know what your thoughts are. Share if you liked it!

 

I’m always looking for new stories, no matter the medium. If you know of any great books, movies, or video games that you absolutely love, let me know in the comments and, if I haven’t checked it out, I’ll add it to the list!

 

Is Brand Extension a Problem in Entertainment?

I’ll answer the question posed in the title right now: it honestly depends. With several exceptions, the most anticipated films set to come out in the next few years are associated with Marvel, Star Wars, DC, and Transformers. Several of these movies have been fantastic triumphs that explore the human condition in a way few popular movies have managed to since. Others are simply an excuse to watch things explode on a big screen. Now the Harry Potter universe joins their ranks.

The question about brand extension is especially relevant to Harry Potter, given that very few people asked for this specific movie. When The Deathly Hallows: Part 2 came out, I assumed the film industry was finished with the Wizarding World for some time. The movies had reached the end of the books. The final scene at Platform nine and three quarters played out almost exactly the way I envisioned it when I read it, right down to the music.

It was a fantastic ending to a record-breaking series, which begs a question: Why make a movie about a completely unknown character set in the same universe who loses a bunch of animals in 1920s New York? I’ll answer that after I talk about the plot.

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***Spoiler Alert***

It turns out the ‘20s was a terrifying time for witches and wizards everywhere. The shadow of Gellert Grindelwald, the most powerful dark wizard at the time, lurks in the backdrop as havoc is wreaked around the world, and now, in 1927, strange and mysterious things are happening in New York City.

We follow two interwoven stories throughout the movie. The first is of Newt Scamander, the Wizarding equivalent of Charles Darwin, who has stopped briefly in New York towards the end of extensive travels around the world. However,  a mix-up with Jacob (a No-Mag, the American term for a muggle) leads to Scamander’s false arrest by ex-auror Tina Goldstein, the loss of his case and even more of his creatures. With the American wizard’s strict government aware of his unregistered presence, Scamander, Tina, her sister Queenie, and Jacob must avoid them to recover his specimens before they expose the existence of witches and wizards.

Meanwhile, Percival Graves, Auror and Director of Magical Security, is tracking down the source of magical destruction around the city. He believes that Credence, a teenage orphan associated with a witch-hunting propaganda cult, has information about an Obscurus, a powerful parasite that manifests itself in young witches and wizards who repress their abilities. After escalating incidents leads to several deaths, Graves gives up on Credence’s abilities and blames Scamander for the incident, only to learn shortly after that Credence is the Obscurus. In a fit of rage, Credence unleashes the Obscurus and terrorizes the city.

Scamander and Graves confront each other indirectly over Credence. Scamander and Tina work together to calm him down, believing that Scamander can remove the Obscurus from Credence. Graves, however, attempts to convince Credence that he can help him more than Scamander. It all comes to naught, however, as every member of magical law enforcement in New York descend upon Credence, destroying him.

When Graves declares his true intention of releasing the Obscurus to expose the magical world, Scamander figures out Graves isn’t who he says he is. With a quick cast of ‘revelio’ and assistance from one of his creatures, Graves’ disguise disappears, revealing the dark Grindelwald in his place. With Grindelwald under arrest, Scamander uses his creatures to erase the incident of the Obscurus from the minds of the No-Mag population, including, to Queenie’s dismay, Jacob, and leaves for London.

***Spoilers Over***

If the lengthy description didn’t give it away, this is a busy movie, and there are minor plot threads I didn’t even bother touching. It’s setting up a franchise and introducing us to unfamiliar aspects of a beloved universe with swaths of adoring and unforgiving fans. Which brings me back to a question posed earlier: of all the topics in the Wizarding World, why this one?

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As it turns out, this spinoff is more authentic than any of the other Harry Potter films. We’ve never met any of these characters before. There’s no opportunity to say ‘that’s not how he was in the books’ or ‘it was better in the books.’ The originality makes it much easier to lose yourself in the 1920s aesthetic and enjoy Scamander stammering awkwardly as the introverted explorer slowly learns to open up or marvel at Graves’ hypnotic focus as he executes his duties with precision.

The lessons this story teaches are fairly obvious ones, but the stories of these characters makes the lessons so resonant. The controlling nature of the wizarding government draws some parallels to the discussions about  government control of its citizens, keeping Queenie and Jacob apart from a burgeoning attraction that pains them throughout the film. The Obscurus sends a blatant message about the risks of hiding your true self, and you can see through Credence’s toxic circumstances why someone could so willingly repress who he or she really is (and the dangers of doing so).

The biggest reason this movie works so well is because of the time period. Not only does this movie tell a fairly succinct story in and of itself, the reveal of Graves being Grindelwald in disguise opens up a trove of untold history in the Wizarding World. After all, Grindelwald was touted as the most powerful dark wizard of modern times before Voldemort rose to power. It’ll be interesting to see what happens next, since we know so little about this period of Wizarding history.

I went into this movie with a lot of skepticism. No one I knew asked for a movie about an obscure author of an in-universe textbook. It seemed like a push from Warner Brothers to milk more money out of the Harry Potter name, even if JK Rowling, one of the most authentic and generous women in the entertainment industry, wrote the screenplay. Its deeply constructed world and slightly less deep emotional well made the film far more enjoyable than I anticipated. Even though spinoffs and brand extension are a plague to many moviegoers out there, Fantastic Beasts is a fine example of  how to do it properly.

 

If you’ve seen Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, let me know what your thoughts are. Share if you liked it!

I’m always looking for new stories, no matter the medium. If you know of any great books, movies, or video games that you absolutely love, let me know in the comments and, if I haven’t checked it out, I’ll add it to the list!

On Poetry: Happy Monday!

Reviewing old projects can be useful to see how far you’ve come as a writer.Last week I was reviewing some of my high school writings just to see what I had written when I was younger.

Turns out we ended up focusing a lot on poetry. I mean, a ton of poetry. Besides a couple short stories, a 5-minute script, and some descriptive exercises, it was all poetry. Some of it was halfway decent, too.

Why is poetry such a heavy focus in English classes? It’s not a rhetorical question. I’m genuinely curious. Is it because of the precise nature of every single word, line break, and punctuation that loads every stanza with meaning? Maybe becase it’s been around for centuries? Does it have to do with the diversity of the genre? Haikus, limericks, pantoums, and epics. Okay, I haven’t tried writing an epic poem, but my teachers introduced me to a bunch of diferent styles over the years. I’ll have to look it up this week.

Personally, the deliberate nature of poetry always intimidated me. I can write a short story fairly easily and then edit it later, but something about the significance of cadence, rhyme scheme, alliteration, and a plethora of ther things add more pressure to write the perfect words in the perfect order. That weight makes each work more difficult edit, so I always hesitate to give feedback when I see poetry in my writing group.

Then again, people grow when they try new things. Even though I don’t enjoy writing poetry, I’ve written some excellent poems in the past, meaning I have the potential to write more good poems. I’ll be trying to write some original poetry going forward while I edit Elements and develop my next book.

The rest of the week awaits. Happy Monday!