Category Archives: Thinking Out Loud

“Stop Touching My Hair!” A Short Rant From a Curlicue Woman

Happy International Women’s Day, everyone!

So, taking a break from movies and whatnot…here’s an issue facing some women I know. A lesser one when compared to many, mind you, but still obnoxious:

“I wish I had hair like yours.”

Trust me, ladies. No you don’t.

The first Disney Princess with realistic-looking hair, let alone curly.

Having other women tell you how much they’re lusting after your “luscious curls” is well-meaning, but about as annoying as hearing, “When are you going to have children?” Or hearing an attached person groan about minor relationship problems when you  yourself are unhappily single.

The first two phrases are often used as “small talk”, but I try to give the former a little bit more credit. After all, it comes with genuine admiration, and tends to evoke less of a “none of your business” reaction on the part of the receiver.

That is, until people start touching your hair without so much as a “by your leave”.

 

This is probably why I’ve started to dislike the comment “I want your hair”: the handsy-ness that accompanies it. Having curls means adjusting to friends and sometimes even total strangers playing with your hair when it suits them, much like how some people seem to think they are entitled to touch a pregnant woman’s belly, just by virtue of it existing.

A few weeks ago, while chatting with a friend who was getting her hair done (I wasn’t), I was only partially surprised by one of the other stylists appearing suddenly behind me, hands buried firmly in my ‘do’.

Scrunch scrunch. “I’m sorry,” she said happily once I had noticed her, not retreating in the slightest. “I just love the way you did your hair. These are natural, aren’t they?” Scrunch scrunch.

At one point in my youth, I might have asked back, “I’m sorry, are we talking about hair or breasts?” It would have seemed equally as impertinent of a question, if only because of the hands.

Instead, I smiled. “Yep, it’s natural. Sorry if it feels a little sticky. I gel the crap out of it just to keep its shape.”

Not that I felt that bad if she got stuff on her hands. If you choose to stick your foot on a mousetrap, it shouldn’t surprise you when it snaps down on your toes. 

Hell, why was I even apologizing to her? “Sorry if you touched my hair without permission and didn’t like what you felt”?! How cowed am I?
She shook her head, not visibly put-off at all.

“Are you one with the curls?” she then murmured in a distinctly cult-y way, along with several other things like that. She made my hair sound like a state of being, rather than something that was on my head.

“Of course!” I tried to laugh jokingly, taking it in stride as I have for my whole life. As I said, that’s what it means to have curls for me.

In school, friends would bat at my ponytail, because it was “so soft and fluffy!” I was often pet on the head like a dog, as if my hair was actually some cute little animal. But hey, at least I knew who they were, and most of them asked first. 

 

Having curls, for me, means being told I look “unprofessional,” or, at best, “cute”. The other day, one person actually used the word “precious”.

Women who aren’t white might hear the former or worse, just because they want to work with what they were born with. I don’t know who decided that straight hair obviously translates to having one’s life together, but I can tell you this: at the shortest (about shoulder-length), my hair takes nearly two hours to straighten. Unless I want that look on a given day, why spend all that time burning myself and my hair?

Having curls has often meant hating my hair on most days, because after a shower, my curls are good for precisely one, and then they become a tangled rats’ nest if I don’t sleep on them exactly the right way. And even then, as I mentioned, it takes a lot of product to hold them in the hellishly-oppressive humidity that naturally occurs where I live.

After one good brushing, my hair becomes a frizzy, wavy pyramid. Huzzah

Source here.

Having curls meant being bullied occasionally, because in addition to wearing glasses, I had weird, loopy, frizzy hair while most other girls had straight or wavy locks. Having curls also means being told by some of those same little girls how much they want my hair as grown women.

Oh, to hear what they’d do if they had it…

Having curls means tangles and snags, often painful to remove. I end up pulling it back after I inevitably exhaust all known tactics to try and tame it, and after people see it down for the first time, they remark what a shame it is that I don’t wear it that way more often.

If only I could.   

Having curls means wanting to have your hair instead, because even if you say“Oh, no!  It’s too flat”, “oily”, or “thin”, at least it’s under control. Trust me; I could make it work.  Nice hair costs time and money, as I learn every time I go for a haircut.

If you’re shy, good luck not being noticed with curly hair. Corkscrews make a statement whether you’re trying to or not, so marvels and coos are sure to follow. And yet no one really exclaims at straight hair that looks like it’s straight out of a shampoo commercial, all sleek and shiny and gorgeous.

Imagine if curly girls started doing the same thing to straight-haired girls. Would this seem weird to you?

Source here.

Having curls means reading magazines and watching movies and TV shows where straight hair is dominant or the only style shown, subtly reinforcing the idea that there must be wrong with my hair.

And before you start rolling your eyes, yes, I’ll admit that this is a mentality carried over from childhood. Which makes it hard to shake off, even as an adult. In 2015, a report by Common Sense Media found that “more than half of girls and one-third of boys as young as 6 to 8” have already developed issues with self-image, particularly that of body weight.

Even the more neutral excuse, “Curly hair is just not as marketable,” is an implicit dis that leaves many girls feeling like they have to change their hair, in order to be beautiful and fit in. The times are getting way better thankfully, but still. 

It’s not like head hair is linked to obesity or anything. It doesn’t change much about you for the better if you burn it or perm it or shave it all off.

…Look, I’m not trying to be bitter, or bash other women with naturally straight hair. I know this is just yet another poorly thought out nicety that people pepper into conversations to be complimentary, polite, or just generally social. It’s not wrong to long for some simple human contact, even from people you don’t know, and sometimes we’re all just scrambling for ideas about how to start.

Or maybe you feel compelled to say something, anything, just to acknowledge that someone is, in fact, there.

 

What I’m trying to say is the same basic thing people mean when they beg you not to pry into their number of children, marital status, health conditions, etc.: don’t just assume, and try to think before you speak. Or in this case, touch.

It took me a long time to accept my hair, let alone love it.
*These images do not belong to me.

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Diary of the Casually Linear: Skyrim

DCL…It’s like DLC, but scrambled!

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For reference, this is my first not strictly-linear video game. What can I say? I’m a moron who likes following the plot and knowing where to go next. This is why I tend to watch more movies.

But my boyfriend is getting The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild as soon as he can, and he said this game would be a good way to prepare for its epicness, so there’s that too.

And yes, I know mods for this game exist, but why would I start on those? I’m going to have enough chaos as it is!

 

Day One

I booted up the game, only to be told I was arrested for crossing a border. The gentleman planning to execute me seemed unsure of who I was, and very nicely allowed me to spend half an hour meticulously designing my character.

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She’s a Wood Elf.  🙂

Then, in a suspiciously timely fashion, a dragon attacked the prison. My boyfriend started trying to direct me, telling me to follow the arrow, but I’m still adjusting to the controls, graphics, and general confusion as the dragon barbecues everything within a mile radius of my character. Frantically scrambling to get out of range, I ended up going with the Imperial Soldiers who just tried to cut my head off, and after my boyfriend was done laughing at me, he insisted that I follow through with that storyline, as he’d already chosen to follow the Stormcloak rebels in his file. He seemed intrigued by the dialogue as we meandered around Riverwood, but having the world opened up to me right from the get-go, I just founded myself dazed and hopelessly lost.

Is the land called Skyrim or Tamriel? Is there a difference between the two?

On the way there from the prison, my boyfriend told me that it was up to me whether or not I kept a weapon out at all times. It seemed to slow me down a little bit, but I decided it was worth it for now once a small pack of wolves tried to chew my face off. Also, I know now to not pick up things like buckets and tankards. They don’t sell for much gold and they just take up space and weight you could be using for other things.

Time to figure out how smithing works now…

 

Day Two

I helped a guy named Sven convince his crush that another guy she liked wrote her a mean letter, but then got Sven killed while trying to retrieve some claw artifact stolen by bandits from the Riverwood Trader guy. He randomly said he’d accompany me, so I let him. And now the other guy is pissy with me. Whoops.

He’s still offering to teach me archery for a price though, so he can’t be that mad, I guess.

I also got this Dragonstone tablet thingy. My boyfriend tells me that will be important later. I wish he would have told me not to take Sven along on my first real quest earlier, because he told me after the fact that the guy is a weakling, but whatever. Now I have the keys to his house and I spend time using his cooking pot and bothering his mother. There goes my plan of trying to be an upstanding citizen.

 

Day Three

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I made it to Whiterun, and it seems like a nice place. I got my hands on a bow and took an extra long time getting here because I got distracted by trying to shoot deer, foxes, and rabbits on the way over. I think I want to improve my archery, but first I have to process how the skill progression works.

People keep approaching me with minor quests, but no one seems to be in that big of a hurry, so I figure I’ll do them whenever I feel like it. For now, I’m trying to follow the main story. Probably out of sheer habit.

I found a little girl who wants to be adopted, but I have no house to put her in. 😦

I’m a thane now, which I assume is like a Lord or Lady. All I had to do was give the Jarl some news and kill a dragon squatting at a nearby watchtower. I have a housecarl named Lydia who offered to follow me, and I’m told she’s good. She can double the amount of items you can carry by trading with her, which especially helps for things like dragon bones and scales. I’m surprised I don’t have to pay her a cent for risking her life and purposefully weighing her down. 😄

Speaking of Dragons, I now have a destiny to fulfill, so I’m going to see these old mountain hermit guys.

 

Day Six

I am a Dragonborn(e?), and I can shout at people using the dragons’ own language, which does things. Cool. So far, I can knock people over or jump 20 feet in whatever direction I’m facing.

There has been yet more running around in the wild and shooting things. On the way, Lydia and I also ended up at a place called Hillgrund’s Tomb, and helped a man kill a necromancer who was messing around inside. He has a lot of scary family members, although that might just be because they’ve been there so long that they’re skeletons now. What’s a draugr?

After much trial and error (and a lot of deaths. I handed my boyfriend the controller at one point so that he could give it a few tries, but he hadn’t come across this quest yet and only did slightly better), I managed to keep both Lydia and the guy alive. I’m happy I did something my boyfriend couldn’t manage to do. 🙂

I read online that this guy can’t reward you if he dies…which makes a lot of sense, actually. How could anyone willingly reward you if they’re dead? 😄 But even if you could just take the reward off his corpse, the quest won’t be considered successful. Maybe not even complete.

Anyway, I got gold and raided the enemy corpses for goodies. Huzzah!

I discovered that I really like lockpicking, so that’s another skill to work on. I like searching around rooms for things you can pick up and sell. Or eat. You’d be surprised where you can find fresh food in this game. 😄

I don’t read most of the books I pick up because our TV is tiny. Well, tiny isn’t the right word, but it’s far enough away from the couch that it makes serious reading a struggle. I can barely see the dialogue options half the time unless I’m sitting on the floor, and that starts to get uncomfortable before too long.

 

Day Nine

So much map space, so little time.

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I finally bought a house in Whiterun and filled it up. I adopted Lucia, the girl I met a few days ago, and Sophie, a girl who was selling flowers in Winterhold. I found her sleeping outside in an alley one night and adopted her on the spot, despite the fact that she and Lucia seem to have the same voice actress. I get so confused when either one of them calls out to me. It’s very disorienting.

I stopped doing so many main story quests after a while and just started exploring, or doing minor quests that popped up. Riften seems like fun, although any ideas that I had about playing an even remotely moral character got thrown out the window once I got there. I somehow ended up joining the Thieves’ Guild while searching for this one peasant’s missing bow-heirloom, so now I’m just rolling with it.

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It took me an embarrassingly long time to get how skill progression works too. So whenever you level up, you get 1 point you can apply towards any skill you want, provides that skill has enough of its own levels internally. If that makes as little sense to you as it did to me (my excuse is that I’m a better hands-on learner when it comes to stuff like this), it’s like this: your character can be level 15 as a whole (which can determine what you fight in certain dungeons/areas), but your archery skill can be level 30, or as I like to think of it, you have 30 archery “points”. There are special abilities within the skills that you can unlock, but you can develop any skill you want right off the bat and improve it anytime you want.

To unlock the zoom/slow-down archery ability, I might need to have at least 30 archery points. If I don’t have those the next time my character levels up as a whole (level 16), I have to pick something else and just keep training in the meantime (using my bow out in the world or paying a trainer to give me a point automatically). It’s funny to me that if you’re impatient and have the coin for it, you can just pay someone to essentially use your skill for you until it goes up a point. I wish I could pay someone who would make me instantly better at soccer or volleyball in the real world.

Here’s a visualization, but with the Conjuration skill tree:

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By the way, sooo glad I spent all that time sculpting my character’s appearance. I pretty much never see her face because she’s always wearing helmets! 😄

 

Day Thirteen

So I found this guy who asked me to befriend a dog that he’d seen on the road outside of town, and somehow that dog speaks my language in a bizarrely out-of-place accent. My first thought was that I drank some potion with wonky side effects or something.

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He told me to help him patch his relationship with this guy, who is some kind of statue-god-thing as far as I can gather (a daedric prince?), and that led me to a cave full of vampires. Now I’m one because I guess I got bitten at some point, so after that quest seemed to have finished up, and realizing that the sun was starting to hurt me, I went to Morthal to see a man about a cure.  I could never quite figure out how to lure and feed on victims as a walking abomination, but talking to Falion eventually led to much fun discovering how to buy and use the spell Soul Trap (you need it to fill up a black soul gem, and it has to be a human you use it on), as well as me learning how to raise zombies.

I went back to the prison where the game started, only to find it crawling with bandits, so I didn’t feel too bad about imprisoning one’s soul in jewelry so that I can get rid of this pesky undead thing. Nifty.

In other news, I bought a horse….well, technically two by this point. These things are suicide-ily loyal, because as long as you’re not on them, they will attempt to curbstomp every enemy that comes near you. I lost my first horse that way; I didn’t even want it to go fight a bear. It just did it.

R.I.P. Stupid, Loyal Horse #1

The second one I got was from a stable outside another town (Solitude, I think. Whichever one has palominos). I wanted a different color, and this one thankfully has lasted so far. It seems kind of pointless to own it for riding because it doesn’t go that much faster than you can, running on foot. But I’m an Equestrian at heart and it is amusing to see it go kamikaze itself at wolves and the like.

I only wish I could actually name it. Right now, it seems to go by “Freya’s Horse,” which doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue.

 

Day Seventeen

Lydia doesn’t annoy me as much as she seems to annoy my boyfriend. According to him, as a male character, she only says, “I am sworn to carry your burdens,” in this tired, sarcastic tone of voice. She mixes that one up with, “I am at your command,” for me, and I think at least one other thing, so it doesn’t bother me. It makes me laugh, actually.

I’ve grown so attached to her (and terrified of having her die or simply get permanently lost on quests with me) that I just went ahead and married her in the Temple of Mara in Riften. She lives in my house anyway, and now she can help watch and nurture my NPC children for me.

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Otherwise, I keep killing dragons and bears. Once I was even ambushed by a bear during a random dragon encounter, and that was fun. Another time, I got attacked by a Frost Dragon in a town. I guess that starts to happen more often, as you fast-travel at higher levels. I’m not as annoyed by that as I am by cultist and other NPC group attacks somehow. Either way, it’s funny to watch townspeople run around screaming in panic, and then two seconds later, they’re back to normal conversations. They completely ignore corpses and bones in the street, even if I steal the clothes and it’s just a naked assassin lying there.

I wonder if that’s Skyrim’s equivalent of a snow day. Maybe in the south, people freak out at one dead body in the road, but in the north, they just shrug and don’t cancel schools or anything.  “In my day, we had 10 ft’s worth of dead bodies in the roads, and no one got out of school!” 😄

So far, I am loving this game. It allows for so much freedom, letting you set your own pace and do basically whatever you want first. I’ve never had that kind of experience with a game before, but The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim also draws me in with mythology and fantasy. I need to pay more attention to the conflicts and lore, but then again, it’s taken me forever to figure out the basics of gameplay. 😄

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My favorite moment (a.k.a. glitch) so far was when I was climbing a mountain to fight a dragon marked on my map. It was proving very difficult until the bugger knocked me off the cliff, sending me a good ways down to the ground. I survived, and found it sitting up on the ledge, looking down at me in its usual menacing fashion.

So I pulled out my bow and started shooting at it. Usually, after so many hits on the ground, a dragon will take off into the air again and circle around you for a bit, breathing fire or ice or whatever, but this guy just sat there, not moving at all, letting me take as many shots as Jenassa and I felt like. Eventually, we killed it, and it rolled down the side of the mountain just like I had, before crashing at my feet and beginning to decay/surrender its soul/etc. My boyfriend and I laughed, and he said that was the easiest dragon fight he’d ever seen.

Granted, he’s only been playing for a year (and not even much during that year), but still. 😄

 

…To be continued? Let me know if you’d like to hear more, and definitely feel free to share your own stories in the comments.

*Also, I took one or two of the pictures myself, but the rest came from the Internet. The Skyrim screenshots belong to Bethesda, and the original meme that was Skyrim-ified is courtesy of the blog Hyperbole and A Half.

 

 

Pop Music Icons Summed Up in 10 Words or Less

Who has time for long-winded, ego-stroking think pieces anymore? Certainly not my generation. According to every article I’ve seen in the past ten years, millennials have the attention spans of lab mice, which is why we flock to short, punchy bursts of instant gratification like Vine and Twitter.

Well, allow me to continue that supposed trend today. I’m basically going to take tweets (succinct opinions) and publish them wholesale here. Let’s mock us some pop stars just in time for the Grammys, the most pretentious, inbreeding, self-aggrandizing excuse for an award show to ever grace cable television!

Let the mocking begin!

 

Carrie Underwood.

Queen of Modern Country. Breaks up the sausagefest.

 

Justin Bieber

Bearable since his bitter little balls dropped.

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Lady Gaga

Madonna-wannabe. Wish she’d just sing.

 

Beyonce 

Gifted. Gorgeous. Must have God-awful taste in men.

 

Ed Sheeran 

Wordy ginger brit with major feels.

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Taylor Swift

Whether mad, sad, or glad, that chick be boy-crazy.

 

Rihanna

That one friend who never takes a vacation.

 

Silentó

NOT A REAL ARTIST. SORRY NOT SORRY.

 

Meghan Trainor

GLEE’s Amy Winehouse. Insufferable. Arrogant. “Hollywood fat” at best.

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Drake

Asleep at the mic. Stream of consciousness.  No new friends.

 

Adam Levine.

Thinks he can pull off Justin Timberlake.”Maroon 5 who?”

 

Bruno Mars

Retro-fitting the 21st Century, and I’m okay with that.

 

The Chainsmokers

Hoping you’ll forget this one sometime soon:

 

Lukas Graham.

‘Nough said…no really. You’d think it’s just one guy.

 

Katy Perry.

Like Miley Cyrus but with autotune and no Disney shackles.

 

One Direction.

Not as bad as they were, in nearly every way.

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Nick Jonas. 

Discount Justin Timberlake. Still better than Adam Levine.

 

Sia.

Iggy Azalea’s phony accent with actual pipes to back it.

 

Justin Timberlake. 

Remember NSYNC? He pretends not to. Lonely Island represent!

 

The Weekend.

Half of Justin’s range while singing through their noses.

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DJ Snake.

Usually more fun away from the mic.

 

Adele. 

Gorgeous voice. Still not convinced she’d move on.

 

John Legend.

Doesn’t sound like he belongs to this decade.

 

Jessie Jay.

Discount Katy Perry.

 

twenty one pilots.

Good points. Depressing music. Seem like they need Linkin Park.

 

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Ariana Grande.

Still can’t get over “bwake fwee.” Sorry. Nice voice though.

 

Selena Gomez.

Boring music. Like Ariana, she looks 13.

 

Demi Lovato.

More boring. Still can’t escape the mighty shadow of Disney.

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Lil Wayne.

Weird looking. Jerk to women. Still gets women….?

 

Chris Brown.

Scumbag. Decent voice. Awful. Has awful fans.

 

Mariah Carey.

Amazing pipes. Pissy diva attitude.

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Skrillex.

The sound keys make in the dish washer.

 

P!nk.

My favorite artist. Needs a new live show routine though.

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*Please note: this is not meant to be a serious stab at anyone other than Chris Brown. 

 

 

A Series of Unfortunate Events: Dreadfully Delightful

Be warned: These spoilers will wreck your evening, your home life, and your day. Every single spoiler is nothing but dismay, so look away!

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After my pre-show thoughts post, I spent the better part of my weekend binging this show, thinking about it, and enjoying the hell out of it. My favorite episode, by far, is The Reptile Room parts one and two, as they have hands-down the most likable guardian, the most joy that the Baudelaires experience so far, and the most clever and amusing hijinks and sleuthing of all of Season One.

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I was surprised by how much Count Olaf’s henchmen add to every scene. It is funny how stupid and incompetent they are while still managing to avoid police custody, and their genuine awe and frank admiration when the children (or anyone else) outsmart them is charming. Neil Patrick Harris’s Olaf has grown on me immensely; while I still don’t find him the most intimidating, I have come to find him extremely charismatic. He has become likable and unlikable at the same time.

That is quite an accomplishment. I still believe that Jim Carrey brought a much more genuinely sinister presence to the role, but Harris does very well, and tends to be a bit more balanced. It’s very funny when he frequently forgets his own ruses, barely recovering before any nearby adults grow wise to his schemes.

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On a side note, something about Stephano reminds me of Dana Carvey’s turtle guy. Olaf is perhaps the best worst actor out there.

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As for the other actors, new Violet reminded me a lot of movie Violet, except for her accent and Hot Topic fashion sense. She also seems a bit smarter than movie Violet, because she has a few lines where she tries to lie or otherwise disguise her true feelings, and she does so pretty well. There is still plenty of “let’s tell the villain exactly what we plan to do to stop him” moments going on, but I get the sense that carries over from the book. It’s less obnoxious in the tv show, so I appreciate that.

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I think I like movie Klaus better than new Klaus, if only because Liam Aiken reminds me more of a real boy at Klaus’s age, regardless of voracious reading habits, but new Klaus is perfectly fine. New Sunny and movie Sunny both have as much personality as a baby with subtitles can, and I like both very much. I like to imagine Tara Strong coming into the studio just to record a few odd gurgles and coos for new Sunny and that makes me chuckle. I wonder how well she gets paid for that.

I’m not crazy about the obviously fake effects, but I admit that they lend to the overall tone of the series quite well. They are forced, much like some of the indifference, stupidity, and unwitting cruelty of many of the adult characters. It contains some realism, but is biased and over embellished, much like a child’s world view. Violet’s inventions, as well as the other effects that stand out like sore thumbs, show how the Baudelaires rise up and face their challenges, putting themselves on as equal footing as possible with the walking-caricature adults who try to determine their fate without them. It’s interesting, to say the least, so I can only complain so much.

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One thing that I can complain about, based on what little I know of the books, is the decision to include Jacquelyn, Mr. Poe’s secretary and recurring Volunteer Fire Department member. While I like her a lot, I think she detracts from both the tone of the series and the children’s accomplishments by her mere existence. The characters from the 2004 movie had no such possible bail-out (and apparently neither did the book Baudelaires), and even though she appeared more sparingly towards the end of Season One, Jacquelyn takes away from some of the tension.

The reveal of “the parents” not being the Baudelaire children’s parents was a nice touch, if a little extra cruel. For a non-book reader, it was not altogether unexpected, but still something of a kick in the guts moment. They have been mostly on their own up until now, and you know now that they definitely still are, if not more so, no matter how many shadowy V.F.D. people claim to be looking after them. It helps to counteract what Jacquelyn unwittingly takes away.

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Also, hi Robin Scherbatsky! If you don’t want me to see Barney Stinson playing Count Olaf, maybe don’t bring in buddies from How I Met Your Mother, huh, Neil?

The music is great. It’s manic and energetic, but also off-putting and depressing at times. Sometimes, it delves into both areas at once.

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Patrick Warburton has grown on me quite a bit, much like Harris, although I still can’t fully un-hear Kronk or Joe from Family Guy. The sets are nice and somewhat reminiscent of the movie, which is a plus for me.

There is more time for jokes and dialogue, but every once in a while, this can make a scene go on a little too long. For example, watch the scene where Klaus figures out Olaf’s plan involving The Marvelous Marriage. 

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Book fans will definitely find more loyalty here than they did with the 2004 film, but as usual with adaptation, there are still many liberties as well. Hopefully, the new elements will keep it from being stale or too predictable for them. For the rest of us, the show tells us to expect to be made miserable, and then proceeds to raise and lower our hopes on and off again throughout eight episodes. It’s very much like a rollercoaster, but despite the grim topics and disturbing bits here and there, it’s a family friendly romp that anyone can enjoy.

I’m definitely excited for a second season. I’ve enjoyed it a lot so far, and I’d like to see where this goes from here.

In the meantime, I suppose I should start reading the books. 🙂

 

*None of the images used in this post belong to me. 

 

A Series of Unfortunate Events: Thoughts about the Movie and the Show

A Series of Unfortunate Events is opening on Netflix today, and as such, I figured I’d take a quick look back at the other screen adaptation, the 2004 movie.

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The series was written by Daniel Handler (pen name Lemony Snicket, and the film focuses on the first three books, The Bad Beginning, The Reptile Room, and The Wide Window. I have not read any of the books, so I’m not qualified to judge this as an adaptation, but as a stand-alone film, I found it very enjoyable. It felt very much like a Grimm’s fairytale set in modern day, and the opening scene with the overly cutesy-cutesy, Rankin-Bass-style film being cut off by Jude Law, the narrator, was both jarring and very funny. As an outsider to the series viewing this for the first time, I thought it set the stage and tone very well.

Jim Carrey’s Count Olaf, like most of Jim Carrey’s characters, spends a lot of time mugging and playing to the camera, but at worst, I only find it slightly distracting. It really depends on the movie he’s in. I got the sense that Olaf was an eccentric egotist, as well as a greedy, dangerous psychopath, so it didn’t particularly bother me in this movie. I found Olaf genuinely creepy, aided by the fact that none of the other adults seem to take the children seriously. It plays well into two childhood fears of mine: that of scary strangers, and the idea that the only person I can rely on is myself. I would hate to think I lived in a world where my guardians couldn’t protect me, and even worse, weren’t aware of my need.

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The view of the adults is both mean-spirited and child-like; they are all so focused on their own plans and worries that they tune the Baudelaire children out. They rationalize the orphans as either too struck by tragedy to be thinking clearly, or just generally too young to know what they’re talking about. There are bad adults, and then there are well-intentioned, but bumbling or selfish adults, and the ineptitude of the latter puts the children arguably into more danger than the former.

But the point of the film seems to be highlighting the intelligence and resourcefulness of the Baudelaires, as well as showing that even in a world so full of unfortunate events, there is still plenty of goodness to be found and defended. It is, ultimately, an empowering story for kids, and I like that about it. Ironically, it doesn’t feel like unpleasantness just for unpleasantness’s sake, unlike Boxtrolls.

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The cinematography is all delightfully dark, morbid, and whimsical. It’s almost Tim Burton-eqsue, which is very fun to watch. It is credited to a man named Emmanuel Lubezki, who did work on the shooting of Burton’s Sleepy Hollow, so there you go. The music is fitting, if not the most memorable score in history. One of the songs reminded me a lot of something Enya had once released, but that is by no means a complaint.

My only gripe with the story was the fact that, for such smart children, the Baudelaires do have an awfully obnoxious habit of letting Count Olaf know what they plan to do. Instead of just going to Mr. Poe, the police, or anyone else in secret, they must constantly announce that they’re going to do so in front of the one person who can successfully stop them. It’s very frustrating, and unlike the situation with the hapless adults, it doesn’t feel like the film intends this one.

Otherwise, it’s a solid movie that I love breaking out from time to time. I wish they had done more at the time, as I really liked the child actors, but hey, there’s a tv show coming out right now. I’m hoping it will be even better than what came before.

My only immediate concern is that while Jim Carrey as an actor is usually a weirdo (and that may even be his general appeal), Neil Patrick Harris is usually too lovable, in person or in character. He was in a Muppets movie, for Pete’s sake, so to me, at worst, he’s Barney Stinson. That isn’t exactly the most intimidating monster television has ever created.

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Still, I’ll be curious to see what he does with the role. He’s a good actor, but I personally have a little trouble divorcing him from his characters. I’d also be interested to hear about the show’s book accuracy from any readers out there.

 

*None of the images used in this post belong to me.

Beauty and the Beast (2017): Pre-Movie Thoughts

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Oh don’t start with me, Total Film! “Darker, smarter,” and more relevant than the original? We’ll see!

But in all seriousness, I’m in a very awkward position here. While I like the original Disney’s Cinderella and genuinely believe that it gets more flack than it really deserves, I was very open to the 2015 live-action retelling. It plays with some elements of the original, fixing things here and setting them back over there, but it keeps with the spirit of the original animated features. We still probably didn’t need it, per say, but I’m perfectly happy with its existence, especially if I can mostly ignore Disney’s hardcore feminist detractors.

But this…this movie gives me some serious reservations.

On the one hand, you have Emma Watson, an awesome actress and all-around person. The film will also have Ewan McGregor, Ian McKellen, and Emma Thompson, who I tend to like, regardless of the overall quality of the films they appear in.

*cough cough*
*cough cough*

On the other hand, it’s a remake of one of my favorite Disney movies of all time, and one that made serious bank during the Disney Renaissance of the late 80’s and early 90’s. The story has its flaws, but some of that can be blamed on its roots as an old-school fairytale. It’s still gorgeously animated and well-paced, driven forward by surprisingly simple, but good characters and a writing team that knew just what to cut and cut from the source material to make it more dark and dramatic.

Does it need a remake? I think we can all let out a resounding “NO” to that one. But we’re getting one anyway, and it’s coming from a company that has a pretty high standard of quality, even in its worst flops…except Home on the Range, of course.

So will this new movie be good? Will it have anything to offer that its predecessor didn’t? I am cautiously optimistic, but here are my worries so far, aside from the obvious:

As usual, I have tried my best to ignore the trailers, even though I already know the basic story here. I’m sure the music will be similar, if not identical in most areas, and that’s alright. It is kind of lazy, hollow, and distinctly cash-grabby if you, like me, believe that the movie should be able to stand apart from the original, but whatever. I can look past that choice.

 

Unfortunately, I did catch at least one full trailer (the one featured above) while waiting to see Moana, and unless it was missing some serious context from the movie itself, some interesting, and potentially worrying choices have been made.

For example, it looks as though it is the Beast’s idea to have Belle take her father’s place.

…Why is this a potential problem? Well, think about it. Belle was motivated by desperation, sure, but the choice to have her suggest the trade-off is actually a really good, subtle character moment. It shows the lengths she is willing to go to save someone she cares about, and the fact that she holds to it, even after glimpsing the monstrous Beast in the light, shows real strength, love, and even agency on her part. She finds a way to take as much control of the situation as she can, even in a moment of such crushing defeat, which is yet another reason why I can’t stand the Stockholm Syndrome argument being regularly applied to her.

 

By making this development the Beast’s idea instead, as the new movie appears to, Belle becomes much more passive in that moment, and a very compelling part of her character is lost.

A friend of mine, who was in the theatre with me at the time I saw this trailer, drew my attention to something else. The way that Watson askes the Beast to come into the light is very different from O’Hara’s; the former sounds a lot more defiant and demanding, while the latter is more nervous and curious. It’s as if O’Hara’s Belle noticed something slightly off about this stranger through the darkness, or simply because he was deliberately only moving in the shadows.

Meanwhile, new Belle isn’t intimidated by this guy. She just wants to know who is talking to her.

At first glance, this might seem like it elevates Belle’s character back up, and perhaps it will. There isn’t anything inherently wrong with saying the same line differently. But now, think about the Beast. Even if you weren’t petrified of him, as I frequently was as a child, what is he supposed to be? What makes his change later in the story so compelling?

Could it be the fact that he’s…well, beastly?

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Think back to the scene in the original movie now. Or better yet, watch the clip I included above. Belle finds her father in a dungeon, only to be confronted by a booming voice from the shadows. Robbie Benson’s voice is mixed with that of growling, snarling animals in order to lend him some extra power and inhumanity, so even before Belle sees him, she trembles and stutters at the mere sound of the Beast.

It helps even more if he terrifies the audience as well, and that’s a lot easier to do with pencil and paper than it is with makeup and special effects. The licensed Disney stage musical has a bit of this problem as well, choosing to focus on the Beast’s more petulant side rather than his fear factor.

The only thing terrifying about this guy is his mediocre CG.
The only thing terrifying about this guy is his mediocre CG.

The Beast in the new movie sounds fairly human to me, and without seeing any of the rest of the scene where he and Belle meet in the dungeon, I already feel like his terrifying presence is diminished somewhat by this fragmented exchange. If he can’t successfully scare Belle or us, then in the back of our minds, he’s already not that bad.

Now, the Beast could still be every bit as huge and violent as he was in the original film, but a) that’s a major complaint from the politically-inclined anyway, so they should still complain about it in this film made in modern day, and b) it just won’t have the same weight, even if the actors seeing the Beast do their damndest to look afraid of him.

It also doesn’t help that Belle apparently finds the castle during the day, which tends to be far less dramatic than nighttime, even if the room itself casts shadows everywhere.

The point I am trying to make is this: little choices can make a big difference. However you feel about the healthiness of Belle and Beast’s relationship in the animated film, you must at least agree that the moments defining and developing their relationship are well-paced and well-chosen, even down to the tiniest, nearly subconscious details. That is what makes the original so wonderful…well, at least one of the things. It opened the Academy Awards up to the idea that an animated movie (a musical, at that) could be artistic and moving enough to stand beside its live-action cousins. After a long stretch or relegating animated fare to the “it’s just for kids” bin, Beauty and the Beast (1991) reminded us of its great potential.

The choices made by the new movie may ultimately work on their own, but as I said above, the very fact that the film makers are just porting the soundtrack over from the animated movie begs you to compare the two. At least the new Cinderella only briefly sang “Sing Sweet Nightingale” to herself while she was doing chores in a short scene. That was a cute little winky moment to the audience for anyone who liked the original and might be paying attention, and I appreciate that. It didn’t distract me from the movie I was watching and trying to get invested in.

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I really do hope that this new adaptation will be good, and not just a waste of time that uses strict branding to squeeze more money out of Disney’s vast fanbase. Emma Watson is a smart, beautiful woman, but at the end of the day, a job is a job and actors don’t get a lot of say in directorial choices, let alone the direction they themselves are given. I also really don’t want to see some half-assed retooling to please the social justice warriors. Some of Cinderella (2015) was like that, and I much prefer that if you’re going to change things like that, you should go big or go home (see Ever After: A Cinderella Story). Sure, it might be more abrasive to some people, but at least you’re obviously trying to make the story new, fresh, and most importantly, your own. I can respect the effort and commitment, if nothing else.

I’m starting to lean towards pessimism, but ultimately, time will tell. We’ll see the movie when it comes out, and then we’ll know for sure…

 

Update (3/21/17): Winner winner, chicken dinner. See my new review for more details, but yes…this was a bad one.

*None of the pictures in this post are owned by me.

Life Lessons from Kiki’s Delivery Service

Kiki’s Delivery Service was one of my first movie memories, and it continues to be high on my favorites list to this day.  It struck a nice blend of the magical and mundane; the push for autonomy, stability, and maturity balanced with the need for comfort, good friends, and a good laugh. To me, this film is a perfect bridge between childhood and adulthood.

Kiki, the plucky young witch in training, discovered herself and her true passion, but not without uncertainty or hardship. Here are a few lessons that Kiki’s Delivery Service helped me carry into my own life:

1) You can’t be friends with everyone.

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Making friends isn’t easy for a lot of people. Even the nicest, most outgoing person in the world won’t like or be liked by everyone, and while it might be hard not to take it personally sometimes, it’s not something you can force either.  Seek out the people you like, and who will like you for who you are. Don’t spend a ton of time stressing or trying too hard.

Thankfully, unlike in Kiki’s Delivery Service, we have the Internet now. New friends can be just a few clicks away.  🙂

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2) On a similar note, not everyone will appreciate you.

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It sucks when you go through a ton of effort for someone who doesn’t appreciate it. Whether it’s for a customer, boss, friend, or family member, it’s going to happen eventually, assuming it hadn’t happened already.

Try not to let this sour you. A good deed can be its own reward, but my advice is to stop doing so much for people who consistently don’t acknowledge or reciprocate it. There is a line between being generous and being used.

 

3) Moving away from home is harder than it looks.

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Whether it’s going off to college, moving out of your parents’ house, or just moving to a new address, the first time is always the hardest. You might enjoy it or you might be nervous, but at some point or another, you’ll probably feel a little down or awkward.

 

This is normal. Just power through it. Big steps are called big steps for a reason.

4) Balancing a social life and “adult life” can be really, really hard.

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Having a job is great, unless you hate it. Having a social life is great. But try balancing the two on top personal time, school, and everything else, and things don’t always work out the way you want them to. The call of the bills is a powerful one, and I suggest that you enjoy not having to pay them as long as possible.

The key to balance is prioritizing, time-consciousness, and keeping your expectations realistic. It’s not always ideal, but you’re less likely to be bummed out when plans fall through.

Some days, you might just be too tired to do anything.

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5) Even your favorite jobs will have slow days.

 

It’s just a fact of life: not every minute of every day can be exciting. I say don’t smile if you don’t feel like it, but try not to wallow in misery either. A worthy distraction can do the trick, so set your mind to a task or plan to do something fun when you have the chance.

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6) Inspiration comes and goes.

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Creativity is a strange thing. Sometimes, it comes naturally, and other times it doesn’t. There’s nothing seriously wrong with you when that happens, and it doesn’t make you bad at what you loving doing.

It’s easy to envy others when you’re not sure what you want to do, but even the most passionate, committed people have doubts and slumps. You are different, so how and what you discover may be entirely different from someone else’s path.

 

7) It’s okay to be alone.

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When I was traveling in Tokyo, I went with a small group of other college students. At first, we all stayed together, a bit lost and overwhelmed by such a different place, but in time, we branched out and explored more. The two other girls on the trip weren’t very nice to each other or to me, and I finally decided that in my free time, I would either do things with the guys or go off completely on my own. I would have rather taken a trip like this with my best friends or family, but I refer you to lesson #1 above.

Sometimes if you don’t go off and do things on your own, you won’t end up doing anything at all. It’s okay to want time to yourself. It’s okay to strike it out on your own. Friends are nice, but you can’t wait around all day for someone to be available. You definitely can’t expect friends to move with you.

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8th, last, and most importantly of all: Always sit on your skirt.

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Enough said.