Saturday, 3 November 2012

Insert Quarters to Continue

Rabid Lit Major
Mood: Happy and chill.

Reading: "The Casual Vacancy", the new J.K. Rowling book. I've only just started, but it is truly excellent. The humor, (or should I say "humour"? Heehee.) is quite a bit more sophisticated than the Harry Potter books and is, of course, consummately British. I love it. However, no excerpt...I'm lazy and it's downstairs.

Watching: "The Secret World of Arrietty" Travis Windsor is hanging out with me today. He hasn't seen it yet. It's another brilliant contribution of Miyazaki's (of the Academy Award Winning "Spirited Away" fame.) It is based off of the fabulous children's classic "The Borrowers" and is actually one of the best interpretations I have ever seen. The attention Miyazaki's team of animators give to detail is staggering and incredibly impressive. If you haven't seen it, I highly recommend it.

NaNoWriMo progress: Slow. Mostly been brainstorming. I have a prologue now and the beginnings of the first chapter. Should make some progress today and hopefully have an impressive word count by my next blog post.

Okay! Let's get back into the swing of things! First, a little life update. I have my own computer now for the first time in almost three years. It is a beautiful little Macbook Pro and is my pride and joy. I have yet to find the perfect name for him yet...although I am leaning towards Bartholomew. This means that I now can talk to my boyfriend whenever I want! (Dearest Skype, Your contribution to Long Distance Relationships can not be over-valued.) Oh. And I guess I can blog again too. Moving right along...

Thursday night I made the trek out to Olathe, Kansas to see the film "Wreck it Ralph" (Props, by the way, to the Olathe AMC for being the closest theater showing it at midnight. I am so disappointed in my local theaters.) As you all know, I have a very obvious and obsessive love of Disney films. So it was entirely worth it to me to make the journey out to Kansas to view their newest contribution at midnight. Before I start talking about the film itself, I'd like to share a little observation I've made. Is it just me, or does it seem like children's films have slowly but surely surpassed the adult films in the box office in cleverness?

There are exceptions of course...Art house films and Academy Award contenders still make the attempt to be smart. However, most box office releases are big on effects and low on smarts. Even the "smart" ones seem to be a bit obvious. I've covered how "clever" movies often aren't in my posts about "Inception" and "Avatar". In the "Avatar" post I even pointed out how "Monster's Inc." covered the same topic with more grace and effectiveness. Now, I'm wondering why it is that so many animated films manage to convey their messages so effectively and I have a theory. Children's films have one very obvious restriction on them that adult films have.

They are for children.

 Now, that may seem obvious, but the consequences are not. My theory is that children's films are more clever because they have to work so hard to convey their ideas while keeping it accessible for children. If they need to make the movie scary, they can't rely on gore or violence. If they need to show romance, they can't have a sex scene. If they want to talk about a heavy topic, they have to make sure that children are getting the message without confusing them. Perhaps the mental exercise from working around these restrictions gives these writers the edge that makes the modern children's film so entertaining? Whatever it is, I find that more and more often most of the films I want to see are the ones specifically marketed to children.

Although I am looking forward to "Skyfall", "Les Miserables" and "The Hobbit" with breathless anticipation. ;)

As you can tell from my little rant..."Wreck-It Ralph" was brilliant. The jokes were amazing and I nearly cried multiple times. It tackled the feeling of being an outsider with such tender care. Everyone feels alone at some point in their lives, and by the end of the film I honestly felt like all of those painful memories were somehow alleviated. I think any kid who feels left out is going to come out of that film a happier child. Who could ask more than that? The movie is also incredibly fun and clever. If you have ever played a video game in your life you will spend the entire movie laughing hysterically. Even if you haven't, there are enough clever lines and absurd moments to keep you in stitches. (I'm trying desperately to avoid spoilers, but listen for the line "She was programmed with the most tragic backstory ever." and you will not be disappointed by the scene that follows. I'm laughing now just thinking about it.

You will laugh. Or else.

Also brilliant was the amazing animated short that preceded the film. "Paperman" was romantic, poignant, beautiful and intelligent while having no dialogue, no color and being (at most) five minutes long. See what I mean about restrictions adding to the story rather than subtracting?

I also have to give major props to Disney for a genius marketing campaign. Much like with the Pixar film "Brave" I went into the film thinking "I know exactly what the plot of this film is going to be because they released way too many clips before the film came out." In both cases I was pleasantly surprised. There is way more to the plot of these films than is revealed in the trailers...which considering that the trailers had enough meat to them to constitute a whole film plot, it's impressive that they really only revealed the set-up that occurs in the first 20 minutes or so. "Wreck-it Ralph" also featured one of the funniest sets of ads I have ever seen. They created three fake arcade advertisements featuring the three prominent video games from the film. I can't describe how fantastic these I'm just going to link to them. Suffice to say that the added dimension these give the world that Disney created is something to be admired and emulated by the rest of Hollywood. Take note producers: you should be horrified by how much more complex and realistic CARTOONS are than your films.


If Disney's impressive contributions of the past several years are any indication, we should be very excited for the new Star Wars movies. If their work with the Marvel franchise has shown us anything, it is that Disney is staffed with clever geeks who appreciate the works they are handling. If their work with "Wreck-It Ralph" has shown us anything, they will be the most cleverly written, emotionally true films we could hope for after the devastatingly awful prequel trilogy. It's sad to say, but I think the evidence shows with 100% certainty that Disney will treat the Original Trilogy with far more respect than George Lucas ever did. 

Well, that's the Rabid Lit Major, back for good and signing off for now. Turn off the computer and go see "Wreck-It Ralph". Seriously. Right now.

Igor! Throw the lever!

I'm alive...I think. To sum up, I have a new computer. And a twitter account (which I am still mildly resentful about). Sooooo....I'm doing NaNoWriMo this month, which shall make blogs a bit sporadic as I get back into the swing of things...but keep an eye out for more blogs coming soon(ish)! Boring news update complete.

Friday, 13 May 2011

Just a quick note - I'm in the middle of finals week. (Hence the lack of posts) Posts resume next week.
The Rabid Lit Major

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Film Faves - Leonardo DiCaprio was actually naked the whole time.

Rabid Lit Major
Mood: Barely awake...may need to cheat on my less-caffeine resolution
Reading: the comics of Lucy Knisley whom my sister Hillary introduced to me yesterday and I am finding insightful, funny and poignant.

When I was in my junior year of high school I was nominated to represent my school in theater at Missouri Fine Arts Academy. I sent in a video of myself performing a Shakespearian monologue and a passage from a Meg Cabot book. Surprisingly, this earned me a spot in the summer program and I spent a joyous month in a hyperactive haze as I learned how to direct, act for the screen and how to properly audition for a musical.

Aside from the discipline-focused courses (theater in my case) us MoFFA attendees were expected to attend I.D. or "Interdisciplinary" classes. Essentially, every class day, they split the whole camp into five-or-so large classes of about twenty each...combining kids from all the different fine arts categories. (Dance, Voice, Musical Instruments, Art/Sculpting, and area) Each of these five (or so) mixed classes had a "landscape" name - to my recollection these were something like River, Mountain, Ocean, Field and my group: Cave.

The theme was "artist's landscape" and we were told that the point of the I.D. class was for us to learn from each other and, over the course of the month, put together a giant presentation centering on our group's name that explained to the other groups what we thought the "artist's landscape" meant.

Yeah. It was pretty stupid.

It didn't help that, as much as we liked each other, our group fought like crazy. In the same way that voices in a cave echo off the walls and create a cacophony through which comprehension is impossible, the cave group was so full of strong, creative personalities that we could not hear each other over our own opinions.

What this meant, of course, is that every class period we argued until our faces were blue, eventually compromised enough to think of an idea for the presentation, worked our asses off to get it started...and at the end of the class, during the reflection session, realized that the compromises had created a concept that nobody liked and scrapped it entirely.


What was worse was that our friends in the other I.D. groups all seemed excited about their projects. We would hear snippets at lunch: "Oh yeah! We finished choreographing our second dance number and put finishing touches on our original composition while the art kids painted the set" and our only response was an awkward "We still haven't started yet."

You're probably wondering where the hell I'm going with this. I promise there's a point.

The day before we were supposed to present our projects arrived and we still had nothing. Nada. Zip. We stood around a big table, our teachers looking on vaguely amused and calmly reminding us that we had to present something tomorrow.

We sat in frustrated, terrified silence for ten minutes until one of us spoke up:

"I think we should B.S. it."

We all thought the "artist's landscape" thing was stupid. Let's face it: it kind of was. So we decided to take the modern art route and make something so vague and simple that people would simply assume that, because we called it "art", it must have some deep and impressive meaning to us artists that they, the audience, could never comprehend.

This was our project: we stole a chair and had a couple photography kids take random pictures of it all around campus. At a desk. In an elevator. With some ballet shoes on it. In a tree. With a bra. (You need at least one risque element in modern art after all.) When it came time to present our project, we sat in the audience with everyone else. In the dark. We waited for people to ask what the hell was going on and added our own questions: purposefully ridiculous. "If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to see it...could it fly instead?" When we got others playing along and distracted, one of the group members snuck the chair onstage unseen. When the din hit its peak, we put a spotlight on that empty chair. The room went silent. After a full, hugely awkward, completely silent minute gazing at the chair, the projector screen lit up with the slideshow of pictures. The final picture showed a view of the chair from behind, looking out on the empty audience (a picture of the theater we'd taken before anyone had arrived.)

After the presentations, we gathered in classrooms to discuss. The other presentations had been elaborate. They frankly discussed what it meant to be an artist. They used dance and music and painting to express their joy and creativity. They were elaborate. They were impressive. Extreme amounts of effort went into them.

When asked which group had captured the "artist's landscape" best, the near-unanimous answer was "the cave group". Students and teachers alike praised our grasp of the intricacies of the creative soul: the anguish and the ecstasy of imagination. They applauded our minimalist approach and felt ours was the most "sincere" performance.

At one point I glanced back at my own I.D. teachers and saw them biting their fists in an effort to keep from laughing.

Essentially, we allowed our fellow artists to prove our assumption that they were dumb enough and egocentric enough to make our project seem more clever than it was completely correct.

Christopher Nolan would have fit in well in the cave group.

Caution: If you still want to see this film and are excited by the huge twist you've heard everyone applaud, stop reading now. Either I will ruin it for you by spilling the huge secret, or I will ruin it for you by revealing that the huge secret was stupid. Either way: spoilers ahead.

Film: Inception (2010)
Starring: Leonardo diCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ellen Page (aka Juno-chick)
Screenplay by: Christopher Nolan
Accolades: 4 Academy Awards (Cinematography, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, Visual Effects) 4 Academy Award Nominations (Art Direction, Original Score, Picture of the Year, Screenplay) and a huge amount of fan hype.

Yesterday I spoke of how I liked the ambiguous ending of Labyrinth and how you could never be sure whether she had dreamed the whole thing or not. Why, then, did I find the ending of Inception incredibly idiotic and vaguely insulting?

I was super-excited to see Inception from the very first trailer. The maze-like text of the title sent frissons of bracing terror through me and left me drooling to see it. The snippets of action and mind-bending graphics looked incredible.

It came out. Friends of mine left the theater talking about how awesome it was. How the end was such a mental mind-f*** and how much I'd loved it. The excitement grew.

Then another friend told me "Eh, the ending was lame."

She was the nay-saying needle in a glowing-review haystack. I chose to believe she was being contrary and maintained my excitement, now more determined to like it to prove her wrong.

I will apologize to her now for my lack of faith in her assertion.

So, the plot of Inception is something like that television gimmick "Picture in Picture". There exists some kind of ability/technology/mystical-devil-summoning-process which allows people to enter other people's minds through their dreams in the most complicated form of intellectual property theft ever invented. It's probably every copyright lawyer's nightmare, (Grandma? Grandpa?) and will likely spark some truly absurd conspiracy theories in all of the hundreds of drunks who have ever said: "He's making money off of that?! I came up with that idea years ago but the man kept me down!"

At some point, someone comes up with the logical idea that if you can steal an idea from somebody's mind you can probably plant an idea there as well. Which isn't creepy at all, as I'm sure every sci-fi character that's ever been brainwashed by an evil government can tell you.


So I'm watching the film, and admittedly the visuals were awesome. I mean really, truly, awesome. I only had three major issues with the main portion of the film.

1. Not enough of Ellen Page being Ellen Page. In fact, not enough Ellen Page period. We get one really awesome scene where she bends reality like a kid with a never ending supply of play-doh in every color of the rainbow and then she just fades into the (sometimes inverted) background. There's two issues with this: First of all, in every other film she's been in, Page has been charming and quirky and vibrant. She was boring here. Her character had no opportunity to shine. Secondly, the assertion that they "needed" an architect was never really proven. Her input in the plot seemed minimal, other than feeding Leo's angst. I wanted some elaborate scenes dreamt up by her mind that really impeded everyone creating an excellent plot-point. Instead, it seemed the only reason they needed an architect was to emphasize that Leo's character couldn't be one. Because of his angst. Angst. Angst. Angst. Angst.

2. IT WAS ALL ABOUT LEO. Boring. The whole film was set up so his character could whine about his miserable existence and his wife. Which would be cool...if we hadn't been promised a film about really cool mind-blowing sci-fi and instead were treated to an angst-ridden plot about trust and relationships and guilt with very little actual delving into the sci-fi parts. The sci-fi makes a pretty background, but it really is just the background. Think back: was any of the really awesome technology really explored: implications, history, impact, function etc.? Or was it briefly skimmed over so we get the premise and then used to make everyone feel high and get distracted from the fact that nothing was actually being answered?

3. I literally spent the entire film...the entire film...muttering under my breath "Please don't let the ending be that it was all a dream. Please don't let the ending be that it was all a dream. Please don't let the ending be that it was all a dream." Why? BECAUSE IT WAS BLOODY OBVIOUS. The "real" world held absolutely no element of realism. They weren't even really trying to trick us. At no point did the real world hold a single feeling of realism. There is foreshadowing, and there is being beaten over the head with a baseball bat labeled "TWIST ENDING" until the phrase shows up backwards in bruises all over face. Among all of the other hints, here's the biggest: everyone takes the whole concept of mind-rape in stride. Seriously? It's obvious it's not really a well-known thing. Leo has to explain the concept to Page. She gets over the shock of the most intrusive idea ever pretty freaking quickly.

But here's the really big problem I had: for such a huge, creative's been done. A lot. And better. More subtly and with more point.

Places the ending of Inception was handled with more dexterity
Abres Los Ojos (NOT Vanilla Sky)
House M.D.
Scrooge McDuck
Thousands of cartoons searching for a cheap gimmick.

Essentially, I think that the ending of Inception is like the Emperor's New Clothes. We've been told it's clever. We've been told it's brilliant. We are too afraid, therefore, to admit that we don't get it. Meanwhile Christopher Nolan is laughing all the way to the bank, because he knows there was nothing to get in the first place. He distracted us with shiny special effects (nothing up my sleeve!) so we didn't notice him setting up the magnets that make the damn top spin.

Summation: Totally deserved the Academy Awards it idea why it was ever nominated for writing or best picture.

You spin me right round, baby.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Film Faves - Fantasy Films FTW

Rabid Lit Major:
Mood: Hungry and unfocused
Watching: Q.I., a fabulous BBC show that's like "Whose Line is it Anyway" but educational. Essentially, Stephen Fry sets 4 comedians at a table, quizzes them on obscure trivia, and awards them more points for "interesting" answers than correct answers.

First, a plea: do not get mad at me for the long delay. I did not have access to a computer during the interim since my last post. Many apologies.

Okey-dokey. Let's dive into my film extravaganza (which, now that I think about it, I should have done during Oscars week...) where I will be reviewing films, and explaining the literary reasons they are either awful or awesome.

I'm going to ease into this with two films that are complete classics...if your definition of classic is similar to mine and allows for cult-classic 80s films. Which...why wouldn't it?

The two films which I shall be reviewing are impressive in their handling of classic fantasy novel themes. Where they differ is that one focuses on fairy-tale elements and the other on mythology elements...but both take these themes and make something completely new and unexpected.

So, without further ado: let's jump in. We'll go chronologically. Age before beauty as they say...

Film: Labyrinth (1986)
Starring: David Bowie, Jennifer Connelly, and the genius creations of Jim Henson.
Screenplay: Terry Jones, of Monty Python fame.

So what happens when you take Monty Python cleverness, mix in a bunch of creepy puppets, dump them in a fantasy scene, and have David Bowie star in it and write/perform the entire soundtrack? A set with glitter dumped all over it.

I love this film. My mom was forced to rent it an absurd number of times when I was quite young...which probably explains a lot. Viewing it again as an adult I am struck by how dark it is and how impressively the fantasy elements are woven in. The plot, on the surface, is fairly simple. An imaginative and overly-dramatic teenage girl, angry that she has to babysit her baby half-brother, makes up a story in which the King of the Goblins will take him away if she simply wishes for it. When he actually shows up and takes the baby away, she is struck with remorse and asks for the chance to save the baby. He then gives her 13 hours to solve a huge labyrinth and take the baby back before he turns him into a goblin.

Then you watch the film and you wonder what in the world just happened.

For all the silliness, from the hard-to-look-away-from bulge in David Bowie's tights (yes, tights) and the manic goblins (Jim Henson puppets all) and all of the crazy obstacles (the MC Escher scene had to be the coolest set ever) it's actually a brilliantly written film under all of the glitter. There are four major reasons for this.

1. Mythology elements

If you have ever studied mythology you will be impressed by the little jokes put in the film. The classic riddle where there are two doors, one which always lies and one which always tells the truth, makes a grand appearance. The trippy peach-dream scene is a nice reference to the legends surrounding eating fay food in the land of fairies...which in many legends causes the person who eats it to lose their memories of the real world and lose track of time. The overarching plot of the Goblin King is a variation on Changeling myths. All-in-all it shows that there was some serious thought put into making this seem like a classic story book which helps create....

2. The Ambiguous Ending

Tomorrow, I'm going to talk about "Inception" and how it completely botches its attempt at this. "Labyrinth", however, has this down to a science. The whole story begins with Sarah (Jennifer Connelly) by a lake looking like a medieval princess and speaking in beautiful prose. It isn't until she flubs her lines and pulls out a play that you realize she's playing a game in the park, further highlighted by her realizing the time and hitching up her dress to run to run, revealing the jeans beneath. As you watch the film, you begin to realize that all of the characters and situations she's running into not only echo the themes in the play she'd been reading (called "Labyrinth" of course) but also look like objects from her room. Hoggle looks like a bookend she had. Sir Didymus looks like on of her stuffed animals and rides "Ambrosius" who looks just like her dog "Merlin". Ludo is reminiscent of the "Wild Things" from the Maurice Sendak book on her bookshelf. The MC Escher stairs print on her wall makes a reappearance in the climatic scene. Her music box features a spinning girl in the same ballgown she wears in the peach scene. Heck! She even has a Labyrinth game. There are tons more of these details, but what it boils down to is the vague feeling that the whole thing had been a dream. (The constant references made to dreaming and dreams don't help much here.) The only problem is: it's never confirmed. Even after she "wakes up", she reunites with all of her friends for a party in her room. Regardless of whether it was real or not, the salient point is that she's completely changed by the end of it: she no longer resents her brother or her new stepmother, nor is she as zealously obsessed with her things.

3. Dark horror elements that subtly teach a lesson

You all know how I feel about subtlety in morals. It was the core of my Avatar vs. Monster's Inc. post. One of the most brilliant moments in the script was the junkyard scene. Sarah is shown into a perfect likeness of her room by this freaky junkyard creature...a little old woman puppet who's dwarfed by the large pile of junk she's accumulated on her back. She brings a dazed Sarah to this room and starts handing her her treasured belongings - beginning with the teddy bear that was given to her brother Toby which prompted her to wish him away. As the junk lady hands Sarah the items she mumbles about how Sarah needs these things, how she never wanted to lose them and always emphasizes how they are hers, Sarah's. As this continues, you slowly realize that the items are piling up on Sarah as she clings to them...and she begins to look more and more like the junk lady. It isn't until she exclaims that it's all junk and that what she really needs is to save her brother that the illusion crumbles away revealing the junkyard again. It's terrifying...and subtly warns against holding objects in higher regard than people.

4. Musical numbers

Ok ok. It's not really a literary thing. I just like films with musical numbers. Plus: it's David Bowie. (Although I heard that he's embarrassed by this film...can't imagine why. Maybe it's the tights?)

Wow this is going long. Moving on to film number two.

Film: Princess Bride (1987)
Starring: Cary Elwes, Robin Wright, Mandy Patinkin, Chris Serandon, Andre the Giant, Billy Crystal, Christopher Guest, Fred Savage...
Screenplay: William Goldman, also known for "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid"

I don't think I need to tell you that this film is great. It's quirky beyond all reason and the fact that it's written by the same guy who wrote the book means that it holds all of the quality of a novel. I will however give you the main reasons you like it so much.

1. Frame Story

A good portion of the charm derived from "Princess Bride" is the framework. Rather than a straight up fantasy film, it's delivered as though it is, in fact, a storybook. The movie begins with contemporary Fred Savage as a sick kid home from school being read a book by his grandpa. The film is peppered with interruptions as the kid and the grandfather interact. The kid whines about kissing, the Grandfather interjects his own comments...they even argue about how a story is supposed to go...

2. Avoidance of cliches.

I was going to warn about spoilers here but honestly, if you haven't seen this film you should be watching it instead of reading my blogpost. I am not exaggerating when I tell you that I consider it one of the greatest films ever. One of the great interruption moments with the grandfather and kid is when Westley, the hero, dies. The kid immediately interrupts, exclaiming that he can't be dead. The grandfather tries to continue with the story but the kid gets upset. He wants to know who kills the evil Prince Humperdink. When the grandfather tells him that Humperdink lives, the kid exclaims: "You mean he wins?! Jesus, Grandpa, what'dya read this to me for?" This perfectly highlights why it's so brilliant. While you get all of the elements of a classic fairy tale: the most beautiful princess in the world, daring sword fights, revenge plots, magical cures, kindly giants etc. etc. etc. it's amazing how much it defies convention. I won't go into too much detail here, but consider this. For all of the action and humor of the film, the big climatic scene, when the hero and antagonist face each other for the final time, has no huge chase, dramatic battle or brilliant self sacrifice.

The hero simply taunts the antagonist who then surrenders without a fight, allows himself to be tied up, and the heros simply leave.

There is literally no climatic battle between Westley and Humperdink. The turning point, the resolution of the whole plot, is full contained in the line "Drop. Your. Sword."

THAT is brilliant.

All right. I think this blog is plenty long enough. Tomorrow I'll explain why you should be very offended by Christopher Nolan. In the mean time, a small grammar lesson for you.


People are frequently confused by grammar rules...which is not surprising at all because for every grammar rule that exists there also exists at least one exception to throw you off. The combination of languages and roots that make up the English language make it particularly incomprehensible and often properly written sentences and words will look completely ridiculous. Generally, the best advice is simply to read whatever you've written out loud. If it sounds off, it probably is. There are, however, fiddly little rules that will always throw you off for the simple reason that nobody ever explained them to you. So here we go, the first of my little grammar lessons.

Possessives and apostrophes constitute some of the most frequent grammar violations. There is actually a fairly simple set of rules when it comes to using an apostrophe to denote possession. The issue is that most have never learned it and even those of us who have get confused because it sometimes looks so silly.

So here we go. A step-by-step process to knowing where to put your apostrophe.

1. Which word should the apostrophe go on? Look at the sentence. The apostrophe belongs on whichever word possesses the object in question, regardless of where it is in the sentence. What object belongs to someone...who does it belong to? The apostrophe goes on the latter.

2. Is this word plural or singular? If it's singular, regardless of whether it ends in an s or not, it gets an 's. This means that when you are referring to an ABC book belonging to Dr. Seuss, it's still "Dr. Seuss's ABC book" even though the "ss's" looks absurd.

3. If the word is plural and ends in an "s" it gets just the apostrophe. If it's plural and doesn't end in an "s" then it get's the "'s" just like the singular words.

In summation, there are cupcakes belonging to your parents, cupcakes belonging to many people, cupcakes belonging to everyone and cupcakes belonging to the class.

1. The people who possess the cupcakes are "parents", "people", "everyone", and the "class".
2. "everyone" and "class" are singular nouns. (They really are. You can't have multiple "everyones" and there is only one class mentioned, even if there are multiple people in the class. It would only be plural if it was "classes".
3. "parents" and "people" are, however, plurals of "parent" and "person" respectively.

So...Here are the cupcakes: my parents' cupcakes, many people's cupcakes, everyone's cupcakes, and the class's cupcakes.


Never use "'s" when creating a plural. Ever. It looks ridiculous. If I see a cupcake's in the previous sentence, it should be followed by the sprinkles that belong to that cupcake (cupcake's sprinkles) or it should be a contraction of "cupcake is" as in "This cupcake's great!"

Major exception: "its" is the possessive form of "it". "it's" is the contraction of "it is". To borrow from Lemony Snicket: Each boat has its own sail. I imagine this is to avoid confusion between possessive its and contraction it's...but let's be honest: It's much more confusing when "its" is its plural form considering that "it's" actually fits in the rules.

Friday, 8 April 2011

Lesson for the day.

Rabid Lit Major
Mood: Chipper
Watching: Mentalist
Reason I love it: 1. Simon Baker's adorable, even without his Australian accent. His eyes twinkle. Also, this week, MORENA BACCARIN GUEST STARS! (For those of you who did NOT watch Firefly after I told you to...shame on you...Morena Baccarin plays Inara Serra)

Ok, so I was talking about Ferris Bueller's Day Off with a friend, and it occurred to me that most people probably think that Ferris Bueller is the protagonist of the story.


So here is your quick lesson for the day.

The protagonist of the story is not necessarily the title character, or the hero, or even the character we see the most. These are all false assumptions. The protagonist...the main character...of a story is the character who is changed by the events of that story.

Cameron Frye is the main character of "Ferris Bueller's Day Off". Not Ferris Bueller.

I'm completely serious. Take a moment and really think about the film. Whenever you look at a story, you have to ask yourself what is so special about these events that we start the story here? What is the point of what Ferris does? If it was simply supposed to be about sipping school, then why this day? He's already skipped nine times. There is something special about this day. Now think about the climax of the film. The most dramatic occurrence of the film was easily the destruction of the Ferrari 250. This is definitely the climax, because it is the action that marks a shift in the story and sparks the resolution. It is at this point that Cameron has his catharsis and overcomes his neurotic nature, ready to take a stand.

Everything Ferris does is centered around Cameron. At every point he is involving him, breaking the fourth wall to talk about how worried he is about him, and asking him to have a good time.

Because I love metaphors, I will put it in another way.

Cameron Frye is Bilbo Baggins. Ferris Bueller is Gandalf the Grey.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

A story I wrote a few years ago...

I feel like, as a blogger who writes about writing, it is only fair that I post a bit of my own writing for you to criticize as you see fit. This story was published in my college's literary magazine and I am decently proud of it. I'm not sure how well this will work as a blog post, considering that it involves footnotes, but we'll see how it goes.


The fault lay with seven year old boy who had been told one too many times that he looked exactly like his father…though he would never know it. Also unwittingly sharing the blame were a recently deceased professor of mythology, a conservative germ-phobic heiress and, last but not least, a maternal but tragically barren woman. However, since the last is arguably the victim of this story, by virtue of the fact that she suffered the most from this chain of events, she can be excused from her portion of the guilt.*

It was several months into the school year before Miss Haney, who taught second grade at Mason County Elementary, discovered that Titania Adams believed herself to be a changeling. Titania, or Taney as her friends called her, had already by this time convinced the entire second grade of her magical heritage.

“It’s really a shame,” Taney would say to her audience. “The poor human child whose place I took can never come back, even now that we know she was taken. It’s too late. She would have tasted fae food long ago, and once you have you can never return.”

Her peers crowded around her at every recess, listening intently to her expound on the intricacies of the fairy realm and its tenuous link to the mortal one. Time she did not spend answering their questions was instead spent meandering wide eyed through grassy area bordering the playground, nimbly avoiding errant dodgeballs and collecting cobwebs from the chain link fence that surrounded the school. Eventually, the students ignored her odd ways, putting it off as a “changeling thing”. When one child dutifully explained this to Ms. Haney’s queries as to why Taney had gone off alone, she immediately notified the school counselor.

The decision to contact Mrs. Adams was made when the counselor Mr. Dukes looked “changeling” up on Wikipedia** to see what it was that Taney was claiming to be. The moment it was discovered that Miss Adams’s delusion was rooted in mythology alarm bells went off in his mind.

Taney Adams’s father had been a well-beloved figure in the community: a professor of mythology at the local college. His Titania had been the apple of his eye and he’d loved to tell her fairy tales. Real ones, not the watered-down Disney version that filled most children’s bedtimes. Darker stories that were at once more terrifying and infinitely more satisfying. She used to tell these, in turn, to her classmates, earning her eager audiences and many friends. Only now, she wasn’t telling them as stories and Mr. Dukes’ psychology textbook told him that Taney’s delusion was a form of repression and as such was a plea for help.

Dr. Adams had passed away six months ago.

He’d suffered a sudden heart attack – a genetic defect exacerbated by years of drinking from snifters of brandy that he fancied matched his tweed suits and the leather chairs, roaring fireplace and gleaming wood of his home library. In the couple months before school started back up again Mrs. Adams, through the haze of her own grief, tried to help her Taney with hers but never felt she really connected to the daughter who had always been a daddy’s girl. Feeling she hadn’t gotten anywhere, she had apprised the school counselor of the situation, placing Taney on the “watch list”. And now, he felt, they needed to talk.

And so, dear readers, the next week found Mrs. Adams lowering herself cautiously into the chair across the desk from Mr. Dukes. Torn between bitter defensiveness at the idea of a stranger telling her how to raise her daughter and overwhelming worry that she truly was failing as a mom. The counselor steepled his fingers and began to preach, and the defensiveness came to the forefront, tinged with a hint of righteousness. He spoke of grief and coping mechanisms, what’s healthy and unhealthy. He walked her through something that sounded ridiculously like a how-to procedural guide on ‘dealing with loss.’ She knew something about that. Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. As if this cheery twenty-something knew a goddamn thing about what she and her daughter were going through! Huh, she thought with a smirk, I must be in the anger stage. She nodded when he paused and gave her a searching look.

The counselor spoke about many things. Trauma, she’d like to inflict some blunt trauma to that over-educated skull, group therapy, as if listening to other people’s problems would make her feel better, church, and heaven knew that was the most depressing idea of the lot!

Finally, towards the end of the painful affair, he gave her one piece of advice that should have been obvious it was so exceedingly simple. Any moron on the street, she figured, could have divined that piece of advice. And that’s why I know it’s the one piece of USEFUL advice he’s given me.

“Of course, you could always try talking to her,” he slipped in, grudgingly it seemed, amidst fervent rants about weekly meetings and the pros and cons of child-friendly medication.

So, that night, Mrs. Adams cooked Taney’s favorite foods and rented “The Princess Bride” and, thus armed, prepared to confront her daughter on her strange behavior. Mrs. Adams munched on the fish sticks and macaroni and cheese while her daughter chattered happily about her day, the promise of hot fudge brownie sundaes evident in the warm smell in the air. At a break in the spirited monologue she began.

“Taney…what’s a changeling?”

Taney took a deep gulp of milk and swiped her mouth with her sleeve. Mrs. Adams decided now was not the time to correct table manners as the girl turned wide eyes to her mother.

“It’s a magical creature that’s been switched with a human child,” Taney explained. “It can be a troll or a fairy or anything magical really…even a piece of enchanted wood, though they look like they get sick and die real early, before they’re growed.”


“Grown,” Taney agreed. “The fairies swap ‘em with a real kid see, and then raise the human kid as their own and the human family never finds out! Not ‘less they see the signs of course.” Taney lowered her eyes here. “I’m sorry Mom, I know it’s a shock, but what’s happened has happened right?”

“I’m not following, Taney.”

“Well, you’re asking these questions ‘cause you figured out I’m a changeling, right? I promise I didn’t know ‘til a coupla months ago.”

Mrs. Adams took a deep breath and sent up a prayer that she would NOT screw this up. “And why do you think you’re a changeling, Taney? Do…do you feel like you don’t fit in?”

“Hm? Oh, nothing like that. Well, for one thing, changelings don’t like to wear shoes. And I’m ALWAYS taking my shoes off to run in the grass.”

“I do that too, Taney. So did your father. Are we changelings?”


There was silence for a few moments, interrupted by the timer on the brownies going off. Mrs. Adams got up to take them out, and quickly returned to where Taney was happily dipping her fish stick in ketchup.

“The brownies done, Mom?”

“Hm? Yes…but they need to cool a little before we cut them. Besides you haven’t finished your dinner.” Taney grinned and popped the last bite of fish stick in her mouth. Mrs. Adams chuckled, but sobered up immediately. “Now, Taney, back on the changeling thing. Surely the fact that you like to go barefoot wasn’t the only thing?”


“Well? Where did you get such a silly idea?”

“Jimmy Hudgens,” Taney said, naming a boy from her class.

Well that was a shock. She’d been expecting some kind of deep emotional feeling of abandonment, or at the very least some goofy television show. “James Hudgens told you that you were a changeling?” she echoed faintly.

“No. Jimmy says everyone always tells him how much he looks like his dad and how it annoys him. I asked him why people think that and he said that kids are s’posed to look like their parents.

“I wasn’t sure Jimmy was right, so I emailed the science professor at Daddy’s old college during computer class at school and asked him why kids look like their parents. He told me that there are these things called genes, but not the kind you wear, that decide height and hair color and eye color and all that stuff and that you get them from your mommy and daddy.

“I figured it out from there. See…fairies think that blonde hair and blue eyes are the prettiest, so they take babies that look like that. Fairy babies look like the forest, so they have brown hair and green eyes like me.” She grinned, the aforementioned green eyes sparkling. “I never realized how different I look from you and Papa! Neither of you have brown hair or green eyes…you both have blond hair and blue eyes, just like fairies like. I’m also tons shorter than you were at my age.” The Adams family lived in Mrs. Adams’ old house, which she’d bought from her parents when they moved to Florida. Her growth chart sat next to Taney’s on the molding of the kitchen doorway. “Anyways, I figured out from his email that I can’t possibly be your real daughter.”

Mrs. Adams’ heart pounded, her hand flickering to her abdomen as she remembered the miscarriage and the countless doctors' appointments and the disappointment of finding out she’d never have children. She remembered the decision her and her husband made to adopt, the endless meetings with orphanages and teenaged mothers, the hours of arguing about the best way to tell Taney when she was old enough. Silently, she cursed the school’s progressive computer class and decided she’d have a stern talk with this “science professor”.

Somewhere, about fifty miles away, a thirty year old man grading midterm essays on hereditary diseases sneezed three times in quick succession.

Mrs. Adams floundered as she stared at her daughter, who was humming as she stirred her Mac & Cheese. She and her husband had planned to tell Taney she was adopted when she hit middle school and not a minute before. They figured she was too young to deal with the idea of not being their ‘real’ daughter, let alone the emotional upheaval of knowing your own mother didn’t want you.

Taney’s biological mom had not been a teenager, like most mothers putting their children up for adoption at birth. She had been extremely wealthy, inheriting millions from her father’s investments. She liked things sterile and had an aversion to anything germ-ridden. It was amazing, even with the aid of classy gin martinis...the only thing she liked dirty, that she had been able to stomach sex even the one time it took to get pregnant and she was certainly not going to deal with a baby! Just the thought of dirty diapers, jaundice, colic and other squicky things made her hyperventilate.

Mrs. Adams shook herself out of her musings and tried to think of the best way to tell her daughter. “Taney... Your mother…well…she couldn’t, uh, care for you. So she asked me and Daddy to keep you and love you so you could be happy.” She winced at the half-lie. “You know what “adopted” means, right?”

“Sure,” said Taney, seemingly uninterested.

“Taney…” Mrs. Adams started cautiously, “You know that saying ‘If you hear hooves outside it may be zebras, but it’s probably just horses?’”

Taney rolled her eyes “Of course, Mom, it was Dad’s favorite. Just because something weird might be true, it’s more likely something totally normal. But don’t you remember what he always said after?”

Mrs. Adams smiled fondly and spoke in time with her daughter, “But zebras are just so much more interesting.”

“Exactly. I know what ‘adopted’ means, Mommy.”

As they got to work divvying up the brownies and ice cream, Mrs. Adams made one more stab at making sure her daughter was alright.

“Now that you’re older, Taney, I bet your real Mom would like to meet you. We’d have to clean you up real nice but…” She trailed off, anxious for some reason at the idea of Taney meeting her real mom.

Her daughter didn’t look up from where she was squeezing chocolate syrup into perfect criss-crossing patterns on her sundae. “Hm. Maybe someday. I’m sure the fae world is amazing, but once you go there you can’t come back. As long as you’re ok with me being a changeling, it doesn’t bother me any.”

“Taney, she lives in Chicago.”

“Zebras, Mommy. I’m just sad for the human girl who never got to live here.” At this she looked up. “The fae are classically cold you know. At least she has Daddy to keep her company now. I’m sure once he found out he couldn’t stay here anymore, he went straight there. Even if he didn’t know about her, he wouldn’t pass up a chance to see the fae world. It’s supposed to be beautiful.”

Her mother truly couldn’t think of anything to say to that, so the Adams girls just curled up on the sofa with their sundaes and started the movie. As the boy on the screen complained about getting his cheeks pinched, Taney commented, “I think I’m going to try out for Theater in the Park this summer. They’re doing “Midsummer Night’s Dream” this year…maybe I’ll get to play my namesake?”

Mrs. Adams smiled around a large bite of warm brownie and nodded.

*Others may argue that the professor, being dead, (and well before the events took place) may also be excused from the blame. However, it is this author’s humble opinion that the dead can carry blame just as well as – if not better than – the living.
** The poor teacher spent a good five minutes reading the article on the Clint Eastwood movie of the same name before figuring out he had the wrong article.