Sunday, August 1, 2010

Going West

As those of you who also read my Oz blog know, I went to the 2010 Winkie Convention. It was something I'd wanted to do for years, so when I realized I could afford to pay my registration and take the time off work, I jumped for it. Getting there and back was a story in itself.

Due to being unable to find affordable air fare, I decided I would take a Greyhound bus to California. A former Winkie attendee advised I go to Salinas, CA and take public transport from there. Another Winkie was persuaded into meeting me at Salinas and going the rest of the way from there.

Setting out on July 21st, I got a taste of what traveling on a Greyhound would be like: there was some idiot overreacting about everything and asking people a bunch of questions. I was really glad he wasn't on the same route I was.

Reboarding buses and making transfers can be boring, frustrating, and confusing, as the intercom systems they announce the buses on are often full of static. Transfers are really frustrating when the bus you're supposed to catch is late.

Riding the bus is okay, except when there are people talking loudly (something they tell you NOT to do), or when there are young children crying and screaming!

Oftentimes, I'd resort to my MP3 player, some books I'd brought along, or my phone, which I had to recharge a number of times, to ignore the other passengers. As I passed through Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California, I also took some photos.

As I mentioned, I had to recharge my cell phone, and at most Greyhounds, there are outlets they allow people to use for this purpose. At larger ones, power strips or specially designed rows of outlets were available. In Flagstaff, AZ, however, there was a sign over uncovered outlets saying that they were not for you to use, and if you were caught using it, "your trip ends here." Instead, they'd recharge your stuff for you at the counter for $2. Great, so all the other ones offer it for free, while here, if someone makes a simple mistake, you'll strand them? A little harsh!

As for food (each of my trips lasted about 48 hours, spread over three days), I had intended to bring some sandwiches to save money, but by the second day, they were turning rancid, and the last one I had made me sick, so I discarded the rest at a Circle K and bought some crackers. Most Greyhound stations offered over priced vending machines, and some had built-in cafeterias, but I couldn't bring myself to eat there. Sometimes, the bus would take a break near restaurants or convenience stores, and I had better luck there.

The bus arriving at Salinas was about two hours late, the guy picking me up knew it wasn't my fault, though he wasn't thrilled about it, and believe me, neither was I. You'd expect better service for $200+. I guess, given the nature of the transport, you can't blame them for stiff necks, sore backs and tail bones.

Anyways, we got to Winkies in plenty of time.

Sunday, I opted to take the public transport back to Salinas, and the bus system that connects Pacific Grove, Monterey, and Salinas is incredible! On time, comfortable seats, and a pleasant atmosphere. (The price was a bit steep compared to Springfield, but hey, it's California.) I arrived in Salinas, grabbed a late lunch, and headed over to the Greyhound station, which was ... dark and really ghetto. You had to get a key to use the bathrooms.

The bus I was supposed to catch in Salinas was late, but I reflected that it would just cut into my four-hour layover in Los Angeles, making that shorter.

In L.A., we got a new bus that was on time, and eventually made it to Oklahoma City on time as well. Making the final transfer there was easy, as it turned out the same driver was also going to be starting that route.

However, it was spoiled when, in Tulsa, Oklahoma, our driver was changed, and the new one wound up getting us 30 minutes behind schedule. But at least Audrey, my ride home, didn't have to wait too long, as she got there about 10 minutes before.

Next year, I'm trying a different mode of transport!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010


Here's something that irks me: going to a message board and someone has posted a thread about a remake of a movie or possible movie adaptation of a book (or something else) and then, asks who should play whom. And that's it.

I find it quite disturbing how little people actually know about making movies. Here's a few myths people have about making movies.
  1. A movie based on a book is basically transcribed from the book. As most people who actually read books and see the movie can tell you, this is not true, but the myth remains surprisingly prevalent. While some dialogue from books can work very well on film, in many movies, very little of the book's dialogue is used.
  2. Why read the book? I've seen the movie! Because reading the book sounds more intellectual? And plus, if you're reading the book for a school assignment, you might as well not even finish the assignment, because you'll get an F either way. A book is a story. The movie is an interpretation of the story, sometimes with the ending or important elements changed or eliminated.
  3. If the movie sucks, it's the actor's fault. Hardly. Someone wrote the script, someone directed it, and someone thought it would be a movie worth making. The actors are just doing their jobs, following the writers and directors.
  4. Okay, let's say this movie was being made. Who would play who? Too early. It depends on the interpretation of the story and characters that the movie will go for. And frankly, they'll often go against what the fans think should happen, because the fans don't really understand it.
And that is why I rarely talk about movies with most people.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Random Thought

You ever heard this urban legend?

Husband and wife go out for the night and hire a babysitter to watch their kid and put it to bed. They come home and find the babysitter having sex with her boyfriend. When they ask her about it, she says it's okay because they're using Saran Wrap. Turns out the Saran Wrap isn't a great condom substitute and the babysitter gets pregnant.

I'm not for abortions, because if you're that much of an irresponsible slut, you should keep the kid to learn about being a responsible adult.

What I don't get about this urban legend is the parents' unconcerned attitude about their kid. (Guess that's a hint it's not true.) Suppose the kid got out of bed because they missed their parents, wanted a glass of water, or needed to use the bathroom, then sees babysitter Suzy putting out for a guy with Saran Wrap on his penis. Kid would be scarred for life.

How about the parents saying "Sorry, we don't pay prostitutes." "Well, apparently you think we need a new couch." Or, what Audrey and Shaun would say, "Oh, we've done it on that couch lots of times."

Still, I'd know I wouldn't pay someone when I come home and find that they've invited a stranger over and are going at it on my couch.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Switch up

Because some of my followers were not too crazy about my having daily Twitter digests here, and they also were linked to in my Twitter feed, I started a new blog just for that, and moved all my old digests there as well. It's mainly for me to have a place to search through my tweets, kind of like a real-time journal. A lot of my followers follow me on Twitter anyways, so I don't expect them to follow this new blog, but they can if they want.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Fish Fingers and Custard

Last night, BBC America premiered the fifth season of the revived version of Doctor Who. Along with the new series, it marked the first episode in which the role of the Doctor was played by the former unknown Matt Smith. (Of course, the episode actually premiered in the UK two weeks ago.)

Smith is the eleventh actor to play the role of the Doctor officially. The Doctor is an alien who can heal himself when he is fatally wounded or dying, but in doing so changes his body, and to some extent, his personality. This is why the show has had over 30 years on television, over a 47 year period that included a 16 year hiatus. Filming at 27, Smith is the youngest actor to play the role.

In addition to a new star, the lead producer and writer ("showrunner" as they are called in the UK) has been changed with writer Stephen Moffat, who penned the mini-series Jekyll, as well as previous Who episodes such as "Blink" and "The Girl in the Fireplace."

The story opens with the Doctor's TARDIS crashing through time (and the skies of London) before crash landing just outside the home of Amelia Pond, a little girl who lives in Leadworth, England. Amelia has been concerned about a crack in her bedroom wall, and observing it, the Doctor, who is still recovering from his recent regeneration, discovers that it is a crack in time and space, and deduces that it leads to a prison. A giant eye is seen in the crack, claiming that "Prisoner Zero has escaped." Before the Doctor can do anything else, he discovers the TARDIS will self-destruct unless he vents the engine by taking a quick travel through time. He promises Amelia to return in five minutes.

When the Doctor returns, he can't find anyone in the house, until he is unexpectedly hit with a cricket bat. Recovering from the blow, he discovers the resident, who tells him Amelia moved out six months ago. Soon, he exposes the presence of Prisoner Zero, a serpentine multiform alien who soon assumes the shape of a man and a dog. The Doctor manages to make the new homeowner let him go, and they both run out before the Doctor realizes the shed the TARDIS had destroyed on his first visit has been replaced. He quickly deduces that it has been there twelve years. Amelia is now Amy Pond, a "kissogram."

Amy and the Doctor quickly discover that all radios and televisions are broadcasting the message "Prisoner Zero will vacate the human residence, or the human residence will be incinerated." The Doctor realizes that the aliens, a space police force called the Atraxi, are referring to the Earth. With only twenty minutes to spare, the Doctor must find Prisoner Zero and make the Atraxi take him, or it's the end of the world.

"The Eleventh Hour" offers some excellent writing, if this is your kind of show. Though the episode runs at a special length to introduce the new Doctor, his new companion Amy, his redesigned TARDIS (a time machine/space ship that looks like a common 1950's police call box on the outside), and the new sonic screwdriver, it manages to retain a tight plot, and keep the audience interested.

Matt Smith is excellent as the Doctor, bursting with energy, keeping a keen eye for investigation to rival Sherlock Holmes, and yet, he manages to feel like a continuation of the same character fans have been watching all along. Karen Gillan as Amy Pond is also amazing, and very easy on the eyes. Amy is strong willed, and even when she gets into a tight spot, manages to not feel like the typical damsel in distress. (Particularly as her boyfriend happens to be in the same tight spot.) Gillan's cousin Caitlin Blackwood plays the younger Amelia, and does it amazingly well for a child actress, setting up the strong companion who we'll see later.

If you've been a fan of Doctor Who for years, you will love this episode. If you're just curious, I think this would be a good episode to start with.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Why I Don't Write Here Often

I've felt a little bad that I don't write many blogs here, but upon recent consideration, I thought about why.

When I started writing personal blogs, it was while I was living alone, so I didn't have someone I could really talk about my life with. Yes, there was the phone, my friends from church, and occasional visits from family, but blogging offered a tourniquet for lack of someone to talk to.

As I got into Twitter, it became easier for me to say what I was thinking (or random stuff) as I wanted to. (That's why I set up a service to post my daily tweets here, but for some reason, it stopped working.)

But now that I live with family, I now have people I can talk with who'll listen, and who can talk with me, like normal people.

I'll try to keep this blog active, but I doubt it'll ever be what it was.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Six Impossible Things Before Breakfast

Here are six impossible things to believe about the new Disney movie Alice in Wonderland.

1. Tim Burton actually wanted to do it like this.
Given that he signed on after the screenplay was written and it was part of a two-movie deal, the other being a remake of his own Frankenweenie, I'm guessing he actually has his heart set on the latter.

2. The characters really fit those names and personalities!
The Mad Hatter's name is Tarrant Hightop? The Cheshire Cat is Chessur? The Caterpillar's name is Absalom? Wait, that's actually a real name... Let's call that Absolem. They sound pretty contrived to me. All the characters seemed distant and unconcerned with Alice in the books, with many notable exceptions in Through the Looking-Glass, but here they're all obsessed over her.

3. It's about time Alice faced the Jabberwocky!
It's "The Jabberwock," and it is entirely possible that the Jabberwock in the book was fiction within fiction. How on earth did he wind up with the Red Queen, and why was Christopher Lee just thrown in? Alice also faced the Jabberwock(y) in the 1985 television adaptation of the Alice books starring Natalie Gregory, and also in a very poorly done animated adaptation of Through the Looking-Glass that was released straight to video.

4. Alice becoming a feminist is completely believable!
A little reveal at the end about Alice's future was completely unrealistic for the 19th century. In addition, Alice's mother notes early on that Alice is not wearing her stockings or corset. While Carroll's Alice is only seven and a half at the oldest, her society would dictate that she likely wouldn't have grown up like that.

5. Combining the Red Queen and the Queen of Hearts was natural!
The film's Red Queen is basically the Queen of Hearts with a name change, and even more bloodthirsty, as it's even shown that she had the King of Hearts/the Red King executed, as his crowned head is seen in her moat. The Queen of Hearts wasn't that bad in the book, she only ordered executions we were told were never carried out. The Red Queen is a prim and agreeable woman who even helps Alice get started in the chess game. Moreover, the cleverness of the Cards' suits and the chess motif is completely lost here and just used as framing.

6. Carroll would approve.
I understand actually creating a plot and giving Alice a goal more substantial than getting into a beautiful garden or becoming a queen, but as I've shown above, the characterizations were not completely accurate. The plot is even more escapist than Carroll's books, as Alice runs away from a marriage proposal before going down the rabbit hole again so she can slay the Jabberwocky, defeating the Red Queen, so she can get the courage to give her honest answer.

However, this was actually a good movie. These points will mainly get to people who are very familiar with the Alice books or some of the earlier adaptations. I almost wish I wasn't so familiar with them so I could have just taken it on its own.

While I did have some issues with the plot (the epilogue screams "Disney!), for the most part, it was a good plot. However, some characters were greatly underused as others were overused. And why couldn't we have seen more of the characters who were not in the previous Disney movie? Would it kill Disney to show us the Duchess, her Cook, the pig baby, the Mouse with a sad tail, the Gryphon, the Mock Turtle, the White Knight, Humpty Dumpty, the Lion and the Unicorn, or the rest?

The CG was well-done. However, due to its overuse in many recent films, we can spot it. Here, there is CG in every Wonderland scene, Wikipedia estimating that 90% of the movie is CG. Thanks, Tim Burton, for calling it "animation," because that's what it really is.

Danny Elfman did a great job on the music, but I wish he'd also done the music for the end credits, rather than that Avril Lavigne song. It doesn't fit the rest of the movie at all.

Anyways, if you're curious or think you can take it for what it is, by all means, spend a little time in Underland. (Yeah, they changed that, too.)

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

A long overdue blog...

So, remember that blog I wrote back in October? Well, I'm living with Audrey and Shaun now. I don't have as much space as I used to, and come spring, we're having a yard sale where I'll part with a couple bits of furniture that I can't use and we couldn't discard. (My old recliner and couch were in very bad shape, so we threw them away.) I did downsize some of my book collection, but there is a couple boxes of books stored away that I didn't have room for on my shelf. (And as it usually goes for me, now there's even more books!)

Although I did try to find a closer job, I am still at my old job. This means it takes two and a half hours for me to get to work in the morning by bus, meaning I get up at some very early times, as early as 4 AM.

Audrey and Shaun are excellent housemates, people who you can talk to about your problems and all. They're also very open about their sex life...

In our home, aside from us three humans, we have three dogs, two cats, and one of them recently had five kittens. (Jack, my cat, was sadly not getting along, so we had to give him to a friend in the country.) In addition to this zoo, from December to very early February, we also took in my little brother Arthur and our younger sister (who is older than Arthur), because my parents' home had issues that the State expressed concern over. As they're already having enough trouble getting my little brother Daniel back, we figured we would help out.

What happened is best expressed in an e-mail I sent to a friend:
Gen and Arthur are gone. Mom and Dad called Audrey and Shaun today and just came and took them. Basically, she doesn't trust us. Genevieve posted a weird reference to (500) Days Of Summer (something about randomly shouting "penis") on Facebook, and Mom saw it. I mentioned in a now-deleted Facebook status that I'd gotten Arthur hooked on Doctor Who and it's spin-offs. I guess she assumed we were showing them some perverted stuff, and if she doesn't think Doctor Who is New Age or some crap, that they were watching TV more than doing their schoolwork or something.

Now get this: we had Gen and Arthur for the better part of two whole months. The whole point of us taking them in was so they'd be out of the way so Mom and Dad could get the house in better condition or that they could find a better living situation. Shaun asked them about it when they came to pick them up, and the answer was an evasive "nothing has been done." And part of the concern was how warm the house was. They're expecting a foot of snow in a week!

From the way it's looking, they're not going to get Daniel back. And after that, the state will set their sights on Arthur, and maybe Gen. (She'll be 17 then, that's why she's a maybe.) We took in Gen and Arthur, not expecting anything in return. What do we get? Not even a thank you, not even a chance to properly say good-bye, and certainly no financial compensation. Just a big, evasive, "We don't trust you anymore."

Guess what? We helped Gen and Arthur mature as teenagers, because we are still quite young adults, so we can relate and offer advice. They were exercising daily, they had a healthy, low-calorie diet that all of us were on, and they were doing their school work before they were allowed to watch TV and use the computer. WHAT IS WRONG WITH THAT???

Yeah... We're getting over it, but we're still pretty sore about it.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

La Llorona

This story is commonly told in Spanish-speaking communities, with many variants.

Juan made it into the pueblo shortly after nightfall. He began to look for a taberna, as he wanted to relax after his journey. He soon found one, and went inside.

Inside, Juan bought a mug of cerveza and sat down. Outside, he and other patrons heard a low wail outside. It almost sounded like someone crying.

"It's the wail of La Llorona," said an old man not too far from Juan.

"Who is La Llorona?"

"It's not a happy tale," said the old man. "She was a viuda (widow) who had two hijos (children). In time, she met a rich ranchero, who fell in love with her, but he could not marry her. He wanted their own children to be his heirs, but with her children in the way, they would be first in line.

"The woman thought about this until she went mad. Finally, she drowned her children in the river and ran to tell her lover what she had done. He was horrorizado (terrfied) of what she had done. He went to inform the authorities. The woman ran back to the river."

The old man took another drink.

"And what happened then?" asked Juan.

"I'm not too sure. Some say that the river had washed the bodies away, and she thought maybe they'd crawled out of the water, so she searched for them, until she went mad and finally died. Others say the bodies were still there when she returned, so she went mad and died then.

"All stories say she died, mad with pena (sorrow) for her children and her lost love. And now, they say La Llorona, the crying woman, searches for her children along waterways at night. And they say, that if you have been a sinner, she will come to you, looking as beautiful as she did in life, but when you are too close to escape, her face becomes like a dead corpse, and she will take your soul and leave your body cold and empty."

Juan laughed. "Sounds like a tale to scare the little ones with."

"Perhaps," chuckled the old man.

Juan had another drink and stumbled out of the taberna. As he wandered off to find an inn, he came close to the river. How hard the wind was blowing, whistling in his ears. As he looked down the stream, he saw a woman in a white dress.

"I think she needs help," he thought. He walked down the river to help her. How pretty she seemed.

He tapped her on the shoulder.

"All you all right, mujer (woman)?" he asked.

The woman turned around to face him. As she did, her face faded to a rotting, disgusting face, her eyes and nose having been eaten away by maggots that were still in her face.

"Mi hijo! (My son!)" she cried.

And Juan tried to run, except he realized he was no longer on the ground. As he looked down, he saw his body falling over. He looked up at La Lorona.

She was beautiful again, but she was also crying. Her wailing echoed through the night as they flew into the moon.