Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Cake Flavoured Book Tag

There's been freezing rain today and all university classes are cancelled. I happen to have no homework, I've already baked and exercised, and basically I'm over the moon. And you know me, stealer of tags...

This one is from Books, Cameras and Succulents. I tag all readers to answer the questions in the comments. (Yes, you three, do it.)

Chocolate cake:  A dark book you absolutely love
I wouldn't say I love "dark" books, according to my definition of "dark." However, I've heard Charles Dickens' writing called dark, and it deals with very serious topics. So, I'll say A Tale of Two Cities.

Vanilla cake: A light read
Cheaper by the Dozen by Frank and Ernestine Gilbreth. It's not "light" as in poor quality (I have to qualify all my answers, haha), but a very easy read and great for a sick day.

Red Velvet: A book that gave you mixed emotions
The Blue Castle by L. M. Montgomery. I really couldn't decide if I liked it or not. (Any one read it? Thoughts?)

Cheesecake: A book you would recommend to anyone
Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr. (My mind is rather fixated on kids these-a-days since I have an 8-week-old NEPHEW and 3-year old NIECE and a desperate desire to be a mom.)
Also Pride and Prejudice. It doesn't have to be your favourite book but you should at least appreciate it.

Coffee cake: A book you started but did not finish
Death Comes to Pemberley by P. D. James. I have a great dislike of not finishing books once one starts, but I really couldn't get into this one.

Carrot cake: A book with great writing
What can I say? Lord of the Rings takes the cake. (I promise I didn't do that on purpose.)

Cup cake: A series with 4+ books
Harry Potter was the first thing that popped into my mind, but upon further thought I do like a fair amount of series. Little House, Anne of Green Gables (but really just the first four), Grandma's Attic, the Narnia Chronicles, etc.

Fruit cake: A book that wasn't what you anticipated
The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart. It looked very strange but I remember quite liking it.

New Recipe: A current read you didn't know much about
Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson. I know it has to do with the criminal justice system in the U.S. and racial injustice, but I'm not sure what the "plot" or thesis of the book is.

Bon app├ętit!
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Friday, January 19, 2018

My six year old baby

As some of you know, and some of you do not, in January 2012 I started a King Arthur story. Since then, he has been largely ignored, with intermittent half-hearted promises to do otherwise. I have finished other stories in the interval, but until today, this unfinished story has weighed upon my conscience.
Until today, readers.
Though I definitely rushed the ending, and those few thousand words may be some of the worst I've ever written, it is done. I had to finish before I could edit (and, boy, does this story need editing). The 107, 102 words that The Arthurian Chronicles wound up to be are inconsistent, filled with plot holes and poor plot choices. It is repetitive and probably contradictory at the same time.

But I do feel some satisfaction that, even if I never edit it and no one besides my grandkids ever read it, Arthur's story has reached an ending at last.
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Monday, January 15, 2018

Chewbacca is the real hero of Star Wars

To all readers who enjoyed the latest Star Wars movie — you may want to take a step back and pretend you didn't see this post. Those of you who thought it was "meh," prepare to change your mind. And if there are any readers who were seriously disturbed by this attempt at a movie, I hope you will enjoy yourself. Don't read it at all if you don't want to see dozens of spoilers for the original trilogy and the newest two movies.
This is not really a movie review, it is a relentless attack on the latest installment in the Star Wars series. I have divided it into different types of reasons why I didn't like the movie: personal reasons (as in, I feel this way but you're welcome to disagree), Star Wars world reasons (rules this film breaks), and movie reasons (simply, things any movie writer/director Should Not Do if they want to make a good movie).

I guess I'll start with things I liked about this movie.
1. I liked the scrolling yellow type at the beginning. It just isn't a Star Wars movie if you don't jump when the music starts.
2. I liked the ice fox creatures. They looked like they came from Star Wars. (Ahem, unlike the animated birds.)
3. I liked... there was something else, but I can't remember it now.

Personal reasons:
I disliked The Force Awakens for personal reasons. TFW was almost a carbon copy of A New Hope, but... not as good. The jokes weren't as funny. The characters weren't as likable. Rey and Finn aren't bad sorts, but they were both very bland. I think in both of the new movies they tried to bridge the gap between the original trilogy by copying the storylines, but make things original by changing the rules. (I.e., everyone is way more powerful, the force is now a religion, men are useless, etc.).
One of the big reasons I didn't like the new movies is that they undo the previous ones. Perhaps it is more realistic that the empire wasn't actually destroyed at the end of #6, but I don't like it. I don't want the old story to be dredged up. "Nope, actually, Luke, Leia and Han did nothing. Everyone is still oppressed. Actually, it's worse than before. The First Order is thoroughly horrible and way more powerful. A Sith came out of nowhere. Also, although Darth Vader destroyed Darth Sidius, forget that, he was evil."
I would have liked the movies much better if they had come up with a new storyline and new villains,  and just bridged the gap by using some of the same characters and (hint, hint) the same story rules.
In addition, in the original stories there is very little grey. There is Total Evil (Sidius/Empire) and Unquestioned Good (The Rebellion). That doesn't mean the characters don't struggle sometimes (e.g. Luke in #6 struggles to not be driven by hate, which would take him to the Dark Side).  But there is unquestionably a good side and a bad side, and the good characters fight for good. Once again, perhaps this new grayness is more realistic, but I hold that stories are not necessarily supposed to be 100% realistic to earth-life. In the true story of Life, there is Absolute Evil and Absolute Good, and Good always wins in the end. I believe all stories should remind us of the Story, and if that means Good wins a little more than we see on Earth, fine and good.
I also don't like seeing Luke as a depressed person and Han Solo and Leia separated. It's Not Right and I refuse to believe that this story is what happened.

And then they went and killed Han Solo, and I will never forgive them.

Star Wars Reasons:

As mentioned above, the new series seems to attempt to be like the old ones by copying plots, but changing everything else. The Force gives people surprising new abilities — I don't know, I would think the most powerful Jedi of all time (Anakin/Darth Vader, or maybe Yoda) would be more powerful than a completely untrained girl, another girl who's basically never used the Force, or a random guy who's easily deceived and killed by a teenager.
Also, droids are also more powerful. I'm willing to forgive this, because one could say technology developed further. (Just not autopilot??). However, BB-8 is used as a deus ex machina way too many times. Every time Rose and Finn get in some situation that they can't get out of — oh, how convenient! BB-8 knocked down and gagged five guards, then knocks out another one by spitting coins at him. (???) Or, he drives one of those walker things and starts shooting at people. Droids have never taken so much initiative.
Another thing that goes agains the Star Wars rules: they make a big deal about how no one has been able to track trough hyper space before... Well, except, for twice in the very first Star Wars movie, A New Hope. Hm.

Here are the top four new ways of using the Force, which go against all the other movies:

1. Apparently Leia is related to Mary Poppins. Midway through the movie, her ship gets bashed and she is sucked out to space. Then, her body miraculously still intact, she opens her eyes and uses the Force to will herself back into the ship. Amazing.
Imagine this, but with less motion and even more fake looking

2. Rey and Kylo-Ren have this really weird mental connection, where at random moments they can see each other (but not each other's surroundings). We learn later that his is because Snoke "bridged their minds," whatever that means. In previous Star Wars movies, relatives can sense each other's presence or death, and Obi-Wan senses the deaths of millions of people when a planet is destroyed. They do not, however, communicate mentally, and certainly can't sit down and talk to people as if they're skyping.

3. Yoda appears as a ghost and then calls down lightning to light a tree on fire. This is a fantastic example of how the newest movie make the old ones make less sense. If ghost-jedis can start fires, wouldn't that have been useful in Episode V? Obi-wan should have started a fire to keep Luke warm in the snow. Unless this is something that is actually impossible to do with the Force...

4. Towards the end of the movie Luke does a weird thing. He is on his little island, but he projects an image of himself onto the planet where the Rebellion (or whatever they're calling it now) is fighting the Empire (First Order, blah blah). His hologram gives Leia a physical hug, hands her some gold dice looking thing he found on the Millennium Falcon, and then goes and fights Kylo-Ren. Some time during the fight he becomes insubstantial and lightsabers go in and out of him without harm. Because it isn't really him. Except that he gave Leia real dice. Except later they disappear. Does this make sense to anyone else?

5. Powerful people can override the Skype-thing. At the beginning of the movie, Snoke rings up General Hux. General Hux says "I'll take it in my chambers" and starts to walk across the room. Before he can get there, Snoke's massive head appears in front of him. "Good!" Hux says hurriedly. So now, apparently, one can use the Force to control the communication device, even from lightyears away.

I didn't like Snoke. I would like to know where he came from, but I can overlook that.  What I can't overlook is the fact that they make him out to be so powerful, connecting minds and whatnot, to a level that is stepping outside the bounds of the Star Wars universe, and yet he is so easily deceived into completely misunderstanding the greasy teenager Kylo Ren?
(Also, the way he walked look so fake and silly; this film really must have been low budget if they couldn't make him look any better.)
I'm sorry, but I didn't really like Rey either. Or, to be more specific, I didn't like the abilities the film gave her. She's had a half hour of meditation training and yet she can fight very well with a lightsaber, conceal her thoughts better than Luke Skywalker, and lift hundreds of tons of rocks seemingly with no effort.
Remember when it was a big deal that Yoda could lift this, and the son of Darth Vader couldn't
 Actually, there's a general trend in this movie of untrained women being able to do whatever. Because I've been to two Air and Space museums, and I'm a female, I could definitely pilot a spacecraft without any trouble. (According to the new Star Wars laws.)
I have nothing against female heroines, but I think it's a problem when females can save men but not the other way around, and untrained women (ROSE) know everything, while the men are bumbling (FINN).
Apparently if you're female all this is completely unnecessary.
 I also thought that Rey's parents being "no one" was a cop-out. Excuse me, maybe I could have allowed her to be more powerful than Yoda, Darth Vader, Luke, etc. if she had had some familial connection to one of them. Nope, she's just got lots of magic for... no reason.
It wouldn't have bothered me if her parents were nobody if they hadn't built up to it so much (for instance, no one cares who Han Solo's parents were). But they drag it out soooo much in this movie. "I know who your parents are! I know, I know!" *Thirty minutes later* "I still know who your parents are! Maybe I'll tell you at the end of the movie!"

Movie Reasons:

TLJ wasn't just the worst Star Wars movie yet, it was also a very bad film. The top eight plot holes/poor decisions:

 1. These birds were dumb. They looked completely animated and fake.

2. The whole Admiral Holdo subplot was pointless and made no sense. A) Why did she refuse to tell everyone her plan? There's an unpredictable guy hankering for action. To let him believe that you are doing nothing, in an attempt to be modest, is a very bad idea. He is likely to do something rash. 2) We have droids that can pretty much pilot ships, but no autopilot? She had to stay there? D) After planning to sacrifice herself and let the ship be destroyed, why didn't it occur to her immediately to ram the First Order's ship? How about doing that as soon as everyone is off, instead of letting half the little ships get blown up first?
 (Side note: Since when is the Rebellion's technology better than the First Order, so that the big First Order ship can't catch the little tiny Rebel ship? Or why didn't the First Order jump into hyper space right next to the ship, or in front, instead of waiting for it to run out of fuel?)

3. What was up with the strange cave mirror scene? On the island with Luke, Rey more or less falls into an underground cave, sees her reflection on an ice wall, and thinks somehow she'll learn about her parents if she gets close to it. She sees a long line of reflective selves, and is sort of mentally moving along the line of persons, until she gets to the end and sees.... herself. The next scene, she's in a hut on the island, and the episode is never referred to again.

4. The movie was filled with comedy, but all of it happened to be unfunny comedy. I laughed a few times the second time I watched it, but most of those were at parts that weren't supposed to be funny.
Example: Leia sees her brother after years of absence, which she feared might be forever. The first thing she says is, "I know what you're going to say. Yeah, I changed my hair."

5. Why did Luke make a map to find him if he never wanted to be found and wanted to die on the island?

6. Why didn't Finn get to die? Towards the end of the movie, he is piloting a speeder towards a battering ram thing in order to destroy it, though he will die in the attempt. Suddenly, Rose rams her speeder into his, and they both crash on one side of the ram. She babbles something about love, making it appear that she is the hero in this scene. This really bothered me. Finn is always the bumbling guy, and it would have done so much for his character if the movie makers had let him be the hero in this scene. Either they once again wanted the girl to save the guy, or perhaps they didn't want to kill a beloved character. (Which is poor writing; I personally don't care about Finn that much, but if you do care about him, that's exactly the sort of character who ought to die!) It would have been so much better if he could have sacrificed himself and gotten to save the day and actually make a difference for the Rebellion.
(Side note: Things are blowing up all around them, but somehow Finn and Rose manage to make it back a mile or so to the cave. How very lucky they are.)

7. Poe drove me crazy in this movie. "This is our chance to take down a dreadnought!" Yeah, and this is The First Order. You don't think they have ten others?
So he was demoted for destroying the fleet. But after committing mutiny he was... stunned. And then put in top command. Seemingly with no punishment or hard feelings. I guess you don't have to have strict rules when you have a very small force and absolutely need the loyalty and dependability of everyone.

8. Have to say, the ending wasn't very hopeful. You have like, fifteen people left, but yay, some eight year olds care (who, incidentally, can use the Force without training)! Maybe in ten years you can try again!
Well, I didn't get to include all the flaws in this movie, but college begins again tomorrow and if I don't post this now, I might never do it.
All in all, I think the writers were just really bad. The budget must have been small, because it was bad.

 Finn is a bumbling guy without any development. Poe is a rebellious rebel who can't take orders and cares more about his droid than his friends. Rey and Rose are flat, unrealistic girls without much draw. Luke and Leia are gone, so we all know who the real hero is.
Chewbacca is the real hero of Star Wars. He is dependable, strong, caring, and soft. He may have ripped arms off at times, but he is in more movies than any other living being. (Obi-wan and Yoda are in the same amount, but only if counting their ghost times; R2-D2 and C-3PO are in more but aren't beings.) If I go to see the last Star Wars installment in theaters, it'll be to see Chewbacca.

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Winter Wonderland Tag

I have been tagged! The Author at To Write or Not To Write was kind enough to tag me with a

Winter Wonderland Tag

The rules:

  • Link back to The Storybook Journal
  • Answer the questions and think wintery thoughts. Include pictures if you like.
  • Tag at least three people
I tag: 

The questions:

1. Name a few things you love about winter, and a few things you don't love so much about it.

I'm very fond of sweaters, snow, frost on windows, having a fire at night, and cuddling under blankets.

I don't love mucky slush and huge coats.

2. When you were a child, did you "believe" in Santa Claus?
Oh, yes. I was a very believing sort, before I got old and cynical. (Just kidding, I'm still rather naive about things). When I was told at eight years old I was mad and refused to believe my parents at first.

3. Is there a book or movie that you really like to enjoy in the winter as opposed to other times of the year?
Not a particular one, but I start craving Lord of the Rings after Christmas, and Agatha Christie mysteries always seem nice when one is huddled inside.

4. Is there a particular Christmas movie that you watch every year as a tradition?
Not really. We tried to start a tradition of watching It's a Wonderful Life on New Years, but that only happened a few years. One gets tired of the traditional movies if they're watched every single year. I'm greatly fond of A Christmas Carol and White Christmas, as well, though.

5. Do you usually get a fake tree or a real tree for Christmas? Who is in charge of decorating it at your house?
Oh, real all the way. The smell of the Christmas tree is probably my favorite smell in the world. My middle sister, my mom and myself usually decorate it together.

6. Does your family usually stay home or go visiting (relatives, friends, etc.) on Christmas Day?
This year was the first year I did not stay at home. We've always had a Christmas at home, sometimes with one of my grandmas or my married sister visiting us. This year, after Christmas breakfast, we went to my oldest sister's house.

7. What does your family usually do on New Years Eve? Any traditions? Do you ever stay up till midnight?
 It's different every year. We do stay up till midnight, though it's been less exciting now that staying up till midnight happens multiple times a year. We used to blow horns and throw confetti, which was fun.

8. Do you get snow where you live? If so, have you ever built a snowman and named him Olaf?
We get snow every winter, but only about four out of five winters do we get enough to make things. I have built a snowman (I think it was a snowwoman, actually), but it was much harder than it looks. I definitely did not name any snowmen Olaf.

9. If it's snowing outside, would you prefer to go outside and build snowmen and enjoy it, or would you rather stay inside with a blanket and something hot to drink and maybe a movie or a book?
I like to tromp around after a very light snow, but I prefer to curl up inside with hot chocolate and a movie or book.

10. When do you start looking forward to or getting excited about Spring?
I only get excited for spring in May. I greatly dislike being hot — and ergo Summer — so the beginning of Spring is depressing, as it forebodes the ending of cold and sweaters and etc.

Stay warm! (Or cool, if you live in Australia.)


(I actually followed all the rules. Look at me.)

Sunday, December 31, 2017

New Years Tag

What do you do when you haven't blogged in months and the number of posts for the year is half the size of any other year, but yet you don't have any great wisdom or amusing topics to write about? Fill out a tag, of course, and share it with the followers who are left.

What did you do in 2017 that you'd never done before?
2017 was a big year for me. 

  • In April, a friend and I performed a short scene for judges at an Arts Festival competition... thing. 
  • In June, I had a job as the recess teacher for a three-day homeschool conference, which was the most authority I've ever had (in charge of teenaged-helpers and up to 20-some kids at a time). I made mistakes, but both learned from and enjoyed the experience. 
  • In July, I tried two new gluten free recipes, ├ęclairs and croissants respectively. Both were fairly successful.
  • In August, I participated in starting a student organization at my town's university, that works with our pregnancy care center.
  • In September, I went to a Tchaikovsky opera with my mom, which was wonderful. I love opera and Tchaikovsky is my favorite music writer. I have long wanted to see Eugene Onegin.
  • Throughout the year, my sister and my twin's sister were pregnant at the same time, which was almost as cool as being pregnant simultaneously ourselves (a goal of ours).

Did you keep your New Years Resolutions, and will you make one this year?
I don't remember if I made any — I think I resolved to get more in shape. The first three months of the year I exercised pretty faithfully, then graduation happened — and college — and now I'm making the same resolution again (though I did walk more on campus/to and from the bus). But I don't actually like the New Years resolution thing, because I feel that hardly anyone keeps them for more than a month. So it's actually depressing to call it a resolution.

Did anyone close to you give birth?
Well, I'm glad you asked! My oldest sister gave birth to my first nephew, Frederic, on December 22. Yes, I will share a picture. Or four.

(I was kind of kidding about four, but then I found myself physically unable to post any fewer.)

What countries/states did you visit?
Georgia and South Carolina, which were firsts (unless you count layovers), and Nebraska and Iowa, which weren't.

What would you like to have in 2018 that you lacked in 2017?
More patience.

What date from 2017 will remain etched in your memory?
December 22. No reason. 

Did you move anywhere?
No, thank heaven. I love my room and my family. You'd have to pay ME to get me in a dorm.

What was the best month?
Hm, probably February, because I was in school and enjoying drama and the things I was learning. 

What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Completing my first semester of college.

What was your biggest failure?
Not trusting God.

Did you suffer illness or injury?
In the past week I have stubbed both of my smallest toes. One's nail is black and the other is bruised. 

What was the best thing you bought?
Probably a grey wool sweater from eBay. I already had one and liked it, but the old one was too small.

What did you want and get?
I was very blessed to receive many things. My mother gave me a grey floral duvet for Christmas, various friends and family gave me many books throughout the year, and I got to go to two Regency dances.

What did you want and not get?
I wanted to get 100% on my history final and didn't. I still got an A, so it's only my pride that cares. (N.B. Figuring out different professors' grading systems, and what the relation of "42 out of 50" has to A's and B's and how that in turn corresponds to the 3.25, 3.75, 4.0 and etc. system has been is tricky for this homeschooler.)

Whose behaviour merited celebration?
My mom. She's awesome. She spends one day a week babysitting my niece, and the rest of the week keeping the household going, thinking about all ours needs and desires, and has a part time job (her own business, which means of course that it's really more like full time). She finds time to be so thoughtful, unexpectedly buying me tea or bringing home clothes for one of us when she goes to the thrift store. She's also very patient with my stressing and overreacting.

Where did most of your money go?
Hm, probably edibles (by tea leaf, or by having snacks/drinks with friends), tho' a large portion went to school books.

What did you get really, really, really excited about?
My nephew! Did I mention him? I was really excited about a Hobbit themed English Country dance, to which I traveled with my twin, and excited-nervous for college starting.

What was the best book you read?
Assuming this means book I haven't read before... Perilous Gard or The Secret Adversary.

What were your favourite films of the year?
Of films I saw that came out in 2017, hands down I must answer Murder on the Orient Express. Of films I saw for the first time that came out other years, it's a tie between A United Kingdom (2016) and Hidden Figures (2016). (Honorable mention: Belle (2013)).

Favourite TV show?
If you can't BBC miniseries (I don't really watch TV), then Bleak House.

What was your greatest musical discovery?
I didn't discover it, but my sister found [and shared] this with me:

I've never liked the song, but I do enjoy the Andrews Sisters, so I've been listening to it a lot throughout the holiday season.

How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2017?
Classic English vintage. 

What kept you sane?
The Lord. I would be a tangle of anxiety without being able to tell Jesus everything.

Who did you miss?
My family. Even though I live at home, college work is a lot more time-consuming than homeschooling.

Who was the best person you met?
Marce, the very sweet assistant of my chiropractor, who happens to be a Christian and share some of my dietary restrictions.

What do you wish you'd done more of?
Write. At this time last year I was a chapter away from finishing my King Arthur novel, and I've written about 1000 words since then.

What do you wish you'd done less of?
Stress less. I seriously stressed about graduation and college and scholarships and homework and growing up, when I should have trusted God.

What did you do on your birthday and how old were you?
I turned eighteen. Coming a few days after my graduation, it was a pretty quiet, relaxed birthday. One of my friends surprised me by showing up with a London fog (my favorite hot drink to purchase) and framed picture of the two of us graduating. My mum and I took a walk on a trail, and returned home to eat Hungarian hazel nut cake and a Mexican casserole. While it was a nice day, I remember feeling a slight oppression of spirits, caused by the sadness of growing older. J. M. Barrie says that two is the beginning of the end. Eighteen is also a significant marker, and while I'm not so silly as to start talking of being on the shelf and loosing my bloom, I did feel that from then on, things would not be the same.

How did you spend Christmas?
We went to Christmas Eve service Sunday morning. After coming home we relaxed and prepared food for our traditional Christmas Eve dinner (chocolate and cheese fondu, summer sausage, crackers, fruit and raw vegetables) and Christmas morning breakfast (egg casserole and bubble bread). Making gluten free bubble/monkey bread was fun. Christmas morning we relaxed at home and opened presents, then headed over to my oldest sister's house to exchange gifts with them and see the kids.

How are you going to spend New Years?
Most likely, hanging out with my awesome parents. 

Tell a valuable lesson learned in 2017.
I learned how much I need the Church. I have long felt that I sometimes learn better when I'm at home in my room praying quietly than attending youth group or church services. I have also thought that because there is such a great demand for missionaries, it would make more sense for missionaries  to spread out, rather than going in groups. This fall, for the first time I spent five days a week surrounded by non-Christians, taking classes that were focused on man's achievements instead of God's (most of my school curriculums to date being Christian), and for the first time in four years the only Christian group I was a part of was Sunday church service (which I grew to love even more). I felt the lack of community and realized as never before how much I need my brothers and sisters. It then occurred to me that as a missionary of course I will spend most of every day with non-Christians. While I believe it is possible to do good and grow in faith alone, we are more healthy and more effective when connected to other Christ followers.

Five personally significant events of 2017:
1. My first nephew was born.
2. I graduated.
3. I turned eighteen.
4. I completed my first college semester.
5. I took violin for six months.

Five things you want to do in 2018:
1. Commit my troubles to God instead of worrying.
2. Drink tea.
3. Finish The Silmarilion! Seriously, Awdur, you planned to finish last summer.
4. Do five French review lessons every week.
5. Pray for the persecuted church more faithfully.

And that, my lovely people, is that.