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.

A Small Selection of Rants

Rabid Lit Major
Mood - tired and sore but pretty happy...damn you, Liz! (Liz would be my friend who coaches me through legs hate me and I hate her.) (Not really.)

Reading - "A Study in Scarlet" by Arthur Conan Doyle
Excerpt - "I have noticed such a dreamy, vacant expression in his eyes, that I might have suspected him of being addicted to the use of some narcotic, had not the temperance and cleanliness of his whole life forbidden such a notion" (Anyone who knows anything about Sherlock Holmes will enjoy the irony of this line.)

Ok, that's enough of that. Today, I wanted to look productive but also felt like being lazy. My solution is to put up two posts, one consisting purely of rants and the other an original piece that I already have saved on my computer.

To clarify really quick - An editorial is an opinion piece, usually for the news media (making it written by an "editor", hence the name.) A rant is the same thing, but without the pretension of being a legitimate piece of news and therefore holds more freedom to be generally angry and fewer requirements to justify the opinions. Lack of an employer breathing down my neck also means that my rants can be as long or as short as I like.

However, as with all editorials, I will preface these with a disclaimer.

These rants are works of opinion and do not reflect the views of everyone here at "Rabid Lit Major" (Some of the voices in my head disagree. And yes, I know I'm crazy, but some of the voices don't so keep it down, ok?) If you are offended by anything said in this rant, or if you wish to agree/disagree, feel free to write in the comments box. I do ask, however, that profanity be kept to a minimum because my blog is open to the public and not flagged for offensive material.

"Cool" language
Here is something that has always bothered me: why is it "cool" to sound like an idiot? I went to school in white-and-wealthy suburbia. 98% of the student body fell in the upper-middle class range. Our school was ranked one of the best public schools in the state. So why in the world did so many kids speak in rough slang and with terrible grammar? My brother goes there now and even he will pretend not to understand me when I use words exceeding three syllables and will ignore me until I rephrase the sentence in smaller words. (I know for a fact he knows what the larger words mean.) I think back to high school and I remember standing in the lunch line every day listening to some kid behind me saying things like "It ain't a big deal so I wish she'd get off my a** and sh** because I don't give f*** what she thinks 'cause she don't know what it's like" and all I can think is "Your dad is a lawyer and you are in a school that offers college-level English courses...who do you think you are fooling?"

And while we're on the subject...
Whose bright idea was it to use "gay" as synonymous with "stupid"? If I alienate readers with this post then they are the the kind of readers I want as far away from my blog as is virtually possible. As you will see from my later post, I think discrimination based on sexuality is one of the most misguided prejudices in the universe. As for the use of "gay" as an insulting term to describe something completely unrelated to sexuality as stupid...beyond exposing yourself as pathetically small-minded, you are also wasting an opportunity to use one of many much more kickass insults. I am a fan of "troglodyte", personally.

Speaking of gay...

I have this theory that the song "I Think We're Alone Now" is about a homosexual couple. If you are more familiar with the Tiffany cover from the 80s, you should know that it was originally released in 1967 by Tommy James and the Shondells and was written by a man. Now the song talks about how the two people in question are allowed to be friends but a romantic relationship would be forbidden. A close listener would also notice that no gender-markers are used in the song. In the sixties, who would be allowed to be friends but not lovers? A bi-racial couple probably wouldn't be allowed to be friends in the first place. If the parents/friends/etc cared enough about differing social classes to ban a relationship a friendship would likely be banned as well. Two boys being friends? Not a big deal. Just saying.

And while we're on the subject of music...

As you all know, I'm a big fan of clever lyrics in songs. However, a song does not have to have a deeper meaning to be good. Nor does it need to have exemplary musical technique or be avant-garde or...whatever. Sometimes a song can simply be fun. This is ok and is not something that is to be looked down on. This applies to movies as well. Just because I think a movie is stupid doesn't mean I didn't enjoy it. Did I think "Predators" was a clever movie? Considering that I predicted the order the characters would die in based on their race and personality within five minutes of being introduced to them, the short answer is "no." Did I enjoy two hours of mindless violence and explosions and drooling a bit over Adrian Brody, who I think is very attractive? Absolutely.

How did I do it?

There are eight characters in "Predators" (not counting the Predators and the Laurence Fishburne cameo). Boiling them down to racist profiling, they are as follows: Hispanic guy, Black guy, Russian guy, White-trash-convict guy, Japanese Guy, Doctor guy, Love interest, and Protagonist. This is, by the way, the order they die in. Do I consider this a spoiler? No. Why? I told my brother that would be the order they died in the moment they were all introduced...five minutes into the film. When he asked me after the film how I managed to predict it so exactly, I told him this:
Action movies are typically very racist...mostly because nobody cares enough to take them to task about it. Unless the token black man is the protagonist, he will die first. The only exception to this rule is if there's an Hispanic guy, especially a non-comedic one. Therefore, the first two deaths are Hispanic-guy followed by Black-guy. Protagonist must either survive or die last. Love-interest must either survive or die right before Protagonist in order to make him angry. Doctor-guy is the only truly "nice" guy of the group and seems he has to turn out to be more evil than the rest and turn on them in the climax. He has to die right at the end for the full impact...probably by attacking Love-Interest. That makes the last three to die Doctor-guy, Love-Interest, Protagonist. This leaves us Russian-guy, White-trash-convict-guy and Japanese-guy. Of these, Japanese guy has to die last because he will probably find a samurai sword at some point and have an awesome sword fight that needs to be highlighted. Between Russian and Convict, convict had to die later because he was unarmed and it would make no sense for him to survive so long. By action-film law he therefore has to survive a stupid amount of time. I had all of this pegged in five minutes. It all happened. Even the finding of the random samurai sword.

Oh Japan...

Don't get me wrong, I kind of enjoy anime and manga. I have a huge respect for all styles of comic-books and will defy anyone who tries to claim they are not a valid form of literature. What throws me off is when otherwise-American authors create manga-versions of their work. Did the sequel to "Avalon High" really need to be a Japanese-style comic, Meg Cabot? How does that make sense? Maybe if the story had been in any way Japan-related...such as when Kill Bill took a break from live-action to give O-Ren's backstory in anime-style...but it isn't. More and more authors are jumping on this bandwagon and it's simply puzzling to me.

Speaking of novels I've seen adapted to manga...

Here's the thing Twilight-fans: I didn't hate the first book. I read it with an open-mind, having been told how excellent it was, and came away with the general opinion that it was ok. Was it mechanically well-written? No. Was it original? No. Did the story change my life? No. Did the characters inspire empathy or lust in me? No. On the other hand... Was I particularly bothered that general vampire-lore was ignored? Not really. Did I find it to be a decently cute young-adult romance? Absolutely. The first spark of dislike that Twilight inspired in me was mid-way through the second book when I realized that Bella was totally serious when she thought it was worth the risk of dying in a horrific way to hear the voice of the boyfriend that left her. Seriously? Your boyfriend leaves you, you have a delusion that you can hear his voice telling you not to hurt yourself whenever you do something dangerous, so you decide to ride down a street as fast as you can on a motorcycle without a helmet? When I realized she wasn't going to run into a tree and die a mangled bloody mess, as would have served her right, I put the book down and did not feel a hint of regret for not picking it up again. Bella is a boring, weak and pathetic character who is inspiring an entire generation of girls to hang all of their self-worth on their boyfriends and find over-protectiveness and stalking to be appealing traits in a romantic partner.

So there you go. Rants. Enjoy.