Thursday, June 23, 2016

Summer Cirque Part 13 - Pride Fest 2016

Every year we are present at this event & every year we bring some of our more advanced students down to give them a chance to perform. Every year I am pleasantly surprised & proud with their creativity and talent. I really love being part of such a wonderful event every year & this year especially it was nice to see so many people come out. Between the heat & safety concerns I was worried that we would see lower attendance, but I should have known better that such a strong community wouldn't let either of those bother them. 

I was really happy after not quite hitting  my aerial routines the way I wanted to at Port Washington that things seemed to fall into place. That gives me more confidence heading into the rest of the season. The two students that we brought with us really challenged themselves & did amazing! Each time they climbed higher, did more moves & pushed their endurance which as an instructor is so special to see. They were even photographed by the GR Press which is always cool.
I'm pretty sure everyone had fun too, which is why we do it in the first place! The heat was the big thing on everyone's mind at least in our booth. It was super hot & humid which takes so much energy out of you & makes the silks sticky, ick! One of our students mentioned "I think it gets hotter the higher you climb" and we just verified that is a real thing. I think at some point during the day we all had a heat exhaustion moment, thank god for the lemonade stand, it was truly magical. 

There were two sad parts, at least for me, about Pride this year. The first is that with the new set up we were unable to see the drag show. The way they rearranged was super smart for vendors & to make a little extra money to go down to the families of the Orlando victims but that also meant I had to miss the show, which is  one of my favorite parts! The other thing that was a bit of a let down was that we didn't get to see our random friend that we met two years ago. Over the last couple of years running into him, even if it's only for 5 minutes or so has become a staple. There's always next year though!

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Summer Cirque Part 12 - Port Washington Pirate Festival

The I'm This is a fair that I've heard a lot about but never attended, mainly because it got canceled right before I joined the troupe. I heard that it was great fun, awesome performers, amazing crowds, & real live pirate ships on the water! This year they brought it back, so we packed up, drove over to Port Washington WI & guess what? It delivered!

I was greeted by lovely lake views, excellent performers (some new faces, others familiar), and fair goers that were happy to be there, excited to see good entertainment & ready to have fun! Some of them even sat through the rain to watch my boss to stupid human tricks for a whole show. We took what it starting to feel like the core troupe members with us
Gwyd & Sylver, of course, Myself & Random Max. What was strange about this was this was our first big summer event this year so we had no smaller fair to warm up on, try things out, get accustomed to performing long days outside again. No major breakthroughs this weekend in terms of skills that myself or anyone else is working on but as I said we were getting our "fair" legs again. I feel like once I get out there for a weekend in front of a live audience it gets my creative juices going. I start to think about all the ways I can make my acts better! But thankfully it went about as well as a first weekend goes & there were no major mishaps. 

I got to have a very exciting adventure in the fog, and was joined by everyone else eventually but if that hasn't been mentioned previously I LOVE FOG!
So I was happy to have bit of it to myself. I also got to meet a very wonderful new friend that toured with several circus performers as a historian. It was wonderful to hear her stories & perspective about not only circus but life in general! And on the performer side I made new piratey friends that are actors in the Chicago area when they are not pirating in the Midwest! Overall a great weekend at Pirate Festival but no huge stories to tell. 

Things I Learned at Fair

1. Don't let Max apply your sunscreen
2. People actually have wolves as pets... this is a real thing, more than just that one guy!
3. I am not stronger than the wind
4. It will always be strange to drive through a place you called home
5. Don't test your tornado sirens when it is pouring rain 
6. My love for fog is not limited to the British Isles
7. Mars Cheese Castle is as janky as it looks BUT delivers on its promise of delicious cheese
8. There are friends that break the rules with you & there are friends that keep you safe while you're doing it. Both are necessary
9. Spray painted wood makes for bad Rolla Bolla 

Race Day Part 5 - Bob Doesn't Even Work Here Anymore...

Some background on the title of this post: We at my place of employment help sponsor the race & a potion of it goes through our campus. We get a discount & are encouraged to run on our company team. Bob was one of the executives & every year we would have to try to beat him. Only he never ran very fast I'm told, so it wasn't terribly difficult.
Well he no longer works here so now we have no random old man to beat but I still take advantage of the discount & run the Brian Diemer 5k every year. The weird thing about this race for me is that I will run a strong first 3 miles in the Riverbank Run, finish strong feeling really good about it the month before and then fall apart & run a sloppy & slow 5k. The highlight of this race was getting to hang with my awesome cousin again & the really great people who put their sprinklers out pointed towards the street.  It was definitely 1 million degrees that morning! Not to mention I was able to get my mom out to walk it for her second 5k this year!! I'm so proud of her :)Why this race is so hard for me is still a mystery but this year it definitely has motivated me to run at least a 5k every month. So stay posted for more! 

Race Day Part 4 - Another 10 Down

It has been quite a while since I wrote about my cardio adventures! Mostly because I've either been running inside on the treadmill because Michigan is cold, or because I've been injured & not running. Either way I was even less prepared for this year's 10k than I was for last year. 
I'm still pretty proud of myself for sticking to my guns & running the 10k distance anyway I definitely thought about bailing and only running 5. I don't know why people don't talk specifics on this stuff they just say "someday". "Someday you won't bounce back as quickly." "Someday you'll get hurt easier." What no one ever says is that magical "someday" is 30. Even something simple like a pulled muscle takes way longer to heal after 30 than it does when you're younger. So when I say I'm proud of myself for not backing out, I really am! In the month leading up to the race I first pulled a calf muscle pretty seriously. Then I jammed my big toe. Both incidences interrupted my training in a big way right before the race. It doesn't stop there though, I'm proud of myself for finishing this 10k with out re injuring something and preventing my further endeavors. 
My mom walked again, and I'm very proud of her for not just making that healthy change for a little bit. She's completely changing her habits & trying to get in better shape. My cousin ran with me for her first 10k which was really cool! I hope she keeps doing races with me like we talked about. We paced each other pretty well and are a good running team. My goal for this year is to do more races even if they are only 5k so that way I keep training and am more prepared for next year. I think that's what I said last year but I have more people on board now which makes it easier!! 
My Fitbit was being a butt face & kept pausing!

Year of the Nerd Movies!

I remember mentioning in my review of Star Wars: Episode VII that this year was the most epic year of movies for nerds. Maybe ever! Or maybe I didn't write that & just made that up in my mind....
Regardless there is just movie after movie coming out that I, and many other nerds, are looking forward to. The latest installments for me have been Deadpool, Pride & Prejudice & Zombies, & Captain America: Civil War. I will quickly review my thoughts on both movies for you in the order I saw them.


Things I liked:
The continuous 4th Wall breaking. That for me added an element that the other Marvel movies do not have. I felt like it also made the more "rated R" content not feel as out of place. Which brings me to something else I enjoyed, the decided but not over done R rating of the movie. It was fun to see a Marvel film that was a little more adult & relate-able, but in keeping good balance they didn't go so far over the line that I felt uncomfortable as an audience member. Then there was the obvious plot points that will allow Deadpool to be in an ensemble movie at some point which is exciting!
Things I didn't like:
Basically nothing, I had so much fun at this movie! In a world where people don't really buy  movies anymore I have been debating purchasing this one. 

Pride & Prejudice & Zombies

Confession: I did not read this book.
Things I liked: There were many things to  like about this movie but I think for me they all sum up in how well the mash up of Regency Vs. Zombie Hunter was done. I mean this from all aspects not just plot (although that was very good). The incorporation of both themes was beautifully put into both set design & costume design as well! For me the cast was also top notch. Lily James has earned my eternal love & devotion as a fan. She has not disappointed me up till this point & she played a wonderful Lizzy. I also really enjoyed the knock down drag out fight between Lizzy & Darcy, I though that was a wonderful representation of the tension between the two. 
Thinks I didn't like: They took out my favorite line of Pride & Prejudice. "You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire & love you." I get that it doesn't fit as well with the Zombies but It's still the pinnacle of Pride & Prejudice to me. I heard there were more dojo scenes in the book & that would have been nice to have in the movie. Overall there was not much for me to criticize. 

Captian America: Civil War

Confession: Despite other intentions I only saw the first two Captain America movies the week before this came out.
Things I liked: Chris Evans. Paul Rudd. RDJ. Scarlet Johansson. Ok I could keep going that way because basically I just love all the actors in the Marvel movies! I love how deep they are digging with Steve Rodgers character. Marvel tends to be a little fluffier than DC as far as movies go, so even if they wrap up nicer at the ending it's nice to see them dig deep during the bulk of the movie. The tension & conflict was realistic & relatable. I certainly can say that I've been in situations where I'm stuck choosing between doing things the right way & doing what is right. I also enjoyed that they left it up to us as viewers to decide who was on the right side. Further on this point I thought it was a realistic portrayal of how friendships change as we grow as people & sometimes you find yourself on the opposite side as a close friend but it doesn't always have to end the friendship completely. I may catch crap for this next one but I kinda liked that it was Avengers 2.5.... Hate me if you like. I thought the introduction of Ant-Man well done & the casting/writing for this new Spiderman was brilliant!! Black Panther was everything thing he should be, sophisticated, kinda angry & very sexy! I laughed, got teary, and sat on the edge of my seat more than once in this one. I had so much fun at this movie I literally forgot how long it was!
Things I didn't like: Basically nothing. Unless you count having technical difficulties buying tickets & ending up with 15 tickets to see the same movie....

Monday, May 16, 2016

The Elfstones of Shannara

I am moving right along through Terry Brooks' series into the second book The Elfstones of Shannara. That's right second, even though the cover now says book 1. It hurts my book related OCD! Anyway that rant aside I really enjoyed this one, yep more than the first. I think the Ellcrys tree is maybe the coolest thing about this series! I love the idea of that level of protective magic and I think Brooks has created one of the most harmonious & peaceful depictions of "the ultimate sacrifice". 

It did take me an embarrassingly long time to make some of the generational connections between this book & the last one. But once I got there I really enjoyed that aspect to this series. I read somewhere that The Count of Monte Cristo (by Alexander Dumas) was an influence over his approach to this series & I feel like you can tell. In a very good way. Most (not all) series only show us the one generation in which the story takes place, but this multi-generational approach really shows you the effects, both good & bad, that the events of previous books had on the world. 
I of course was was excited to see Allanon again, and was please that Brooks made evident the toll that his magic takes on him. It eliminates the idea that magic has no consequences & I really like that. I was intrigued by the introduction of the wing riders. I'm really hoping to see that again & hopefully in more detail. Will was very likable, maybe even a little more than Shae. Not sure, the jury is still out one but I enjoyed reading sections told from Will's perspective. His personal discovery & struggle with the Elfstones was well written to, I think most people can relate to the feeling of having one of our characteristics hold us back from where we need to be, even if we don't want it to. This book left me satisfied in terms of the adventure it took me on but also left me wanting more of this world. I am really excited to see where Brooks takes this in the coming books! 

The Sword of Shannara

I will be totally honest I started reading this series because I saw the first episode of the MTV adaptation of this series. It seemed kinda good and I thought, "well if I don't read it now I probably never will." So off I went to the book store to find Book 1, only it took me like 3 trips & some internet research to find the correct book to start with. Terry Brooks not only wrote a prequel to the first trilogy but he also had them put "book 1" on the second book after the show premiered because the show starts with book 2. Talk about confusing! 

After I finally started reading The Sword of Shannara turned out to be every bit the high fantasy series I wanted it to be! The writing style reminded me a bit of Tolkien, only with less poems. Particularly when there was long stretches of traveling and description of the country side. I really enjoyed that it felt big, right from the beginning. The history is long & rich, and there are enough characters/races to fill it. I think Allanon was my favorite character because he is equal parts caring & mysterious. There is so much about him that we don't know and It has to be interesting! Also it becomes clear that he is one of the few characters that will be constant for a while in this story. For the majority of the characters the final chapter was our goodbye to them. 

The Sword it self was fascinating to me. I found how it worked very interesting and wondered what  kind of reaction I would have to the power of the Sword and having to face the truth about myself. It was also interesting that so many magical objects appear to be tied to this one family. I found myself wondering (having watched the first episode) how that power will be preserved as the elvish blood diminishes. Another thing I really enjoyed about this book was all the parallels to our current world & the conflicts we are facing today. Brooks makes it very believable that this world was created out of the collapse of the current world we live in. Yet he never comes out and says it directly so that is still left up to the imagination of the reader. 

As with most first books in any series there were parts that dragged a little but it was very clear that the description in these portions were pure world building and they were super interesting despite their slow moving nature. I would definitely recommend The Sword of Shannara to a fellow fantasy reader! Maybe even to someone that hasn't read a lot of fantasy & would like a good series to try.

The Great Harry Potter Reread - Part 2

Several months ago my book met to discuss Sorcerer's Stone (SS) & Chamber of Secrets (CoS). This very exciting gathering we talked about The Prisoner of Azkaban (PoA)!! Now this was my favorite book of the series all the way up to the point where it was almost (but not) knocked to second favorite by Deathly Hallows. It remains to this day my favorite so know that any of my own opinions will certainly be biased. 

We got together & chatted over food, and covered a great many of topics! As before I will highlight some of the major discussion points and some of the more interesting comments that were made. 

Book vs. Movie

This time around we spent way more time comparing the books to the movies. I suppose this it makes a little sense. PoA was bigger than the first two books by at least 100 pages but the movies were roughly the same length. I won't lie this is my least favorite movie due to some casting disagreements but also largely due to the fact that so much of what grabbed my attention in this book had to do with our four favorite mischief makers. We all agreed that you don't really get the gravity of what meeting friends of his parents really meant to Harry. You also don't get from the movie just how deep the betrayal of Pettigrew went and how much it hurt everyone that knew the Potters. Obviously there are other differences but those were the big ones that kept coming up as we talked. 

The Marauders!

We love them!! All were in agreement. It was obviously nice to learn about them because it helps fill in some of Harry's personal back story & as the main character it's important we feel like he is 3 dimensional but lets face it the Marauders are just fun. They are quirky, quick witted & always up for adventure. There are so many adventures a reader can imagine they had but never get told in the books! Ahhh to have a book on the Marauders. Specifically we compared James & Sirius' conflict with Severus to Harry's conflict with Draco. It was agreed that while James & Sirius were arrogant ass hats as teenagers, they probably didn't spend a lot of time thinking about how to be mean to Severus. They created a magical, interactive map of the entire castle & grounds AND learned how to become animagus in 4 years. They were too busy to be seeking out conflicts with someone they saw as no consequence to them. Before everyone gets all mad at me, I'm not excusing how they treated him, but it is likely they were ass holes of opportunity more than malevolent bullies. Which is far different from how Draco thinks of Harry, he does a lot more active plotting against Harry. 
Another thing we talked about with regards to the Marauders is how Lupin is probably the only one that actually grew up. James & Lily died relatively young. We don't get an exact age but one can imagine it's their early 20's since wizards are done with school at 17 and most people don't settle into their adult personalities until their mid to late 20's. Peter spent most of his adult life as a rat hiding from his past not moving on with his life. That leave Sirius who never really grew up because he spent most of his adult being emotionally traumatized in Azkaban. We see great evidence that this is true later in the series. Where as Lupin grew up, had to process through the grief of losing 3 friends, and started a profession. We all felt like Lupin would be the best teacher ever & were really sad that he had to leave. We felt that one with Harry. We questioned what James & Sirius might have been like as adults had the been allowed to actually become them. 

And Their Map

For all their good and bad points we can all love the Marauders a little bit because they gave us one of the most fascinating magical objects introduced in the series. The Marauder's Map! Now I know I'm a little odd, but I also know I'm not alone, I love maps! LOVE THEM! I love world maps, city maps, fantasy maps (usually found in the front of the book), all the maps! Side note: I also love castles & exploring them. So when JKR gave us a map that is comprehensive of the castle, it's grounds, and all the secret passageways I about lost my shit. Then to top it all off you could see everyone who was in the area covered by the map. So now I could not only imagine myself exploring the castle to its entirity guided by a wonderfully detailed map, I could imagine myself being a wizard spy! There was a legitimate 5 min or more spent gushing about how cool the map is and how appropriate it was that the twins found it. Mischief Managed!

Patronus or Animagus

Just as we talked about what our wands & houses would be with the first two books we definitely spent some time on talking about what our Animagus forms & Patronus would be. As we went back & forth on this topic someone brought up a wonderful point, what is the difference between what form your patronus takes versus what your animagus form is. Here is what as decided:
An Animagus is you only as an animal. Everything in the story suggests that this form does not change, this is why the ministry is able to track Animagus based on their markings, which resemble the physical form of the person as a human (McGonagall's glasses). Given that this form is fixed it should being representative of who you are as a person. 
A Patronus is a protective spell that is drawn from important happy memories, the stronger & more important the memories the more effective the Patronus. What is important to us, and the emotional attachment we place on memories changes and grows as we change & experience more. We experience this in a first person perspective with Harry as he has to process through changing what memories he uses at times to produce his Patronus & in a third person perspective when we find out that Tonk's Patronus has changed form. We felt that Patronuses were more a reflection of your inner emotional state.
For those of you that are curious I decided my Patronus would probably be an owl & my Animagus form would likely be some kind of larger cat, maybe a hawk, but probably a cat

Darker & More Serious

This heading was for a laugh because we joked about how the Trio actors said this about every single movie in interviews! Seriously though JKR's writing did evolve as the series progressed with each book. We discussed how PoA is the first big step in that direction, there wasn't much difference in the writing level & style between SS and CoS. For the first time you get the grander scale of the world & character development took the forefront.Harry starts to get more concrete pieces of his past and as he starts adding to the puzzle we as readers get to see his point of view change. It's not just him versus Voldemort once a year at Hogwarts & anymore, his picture of the Wizarding World becomes more complex. As a first time reader I remember just being excited that I was being given more, but as I am rereading (for the millionth time lets be honest) I can see how the change in writing style & the character development she began in this book really started to lay the ground work that made major events later seem more realistic & plausible.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016


Watching it snow like crazy outside the window (I am not at work why would you think that!?) I am reminded that last year at this time I was posting many complaints about the weather and how awful it was to run in the cold. Well this year I have my very sophisticated (and by that I mean cheap) gym membership which allows me to run in doors. Don't worry I'm still running! Or trying rather. 

The gym is OK, it is definitely better than trying not to slip & die on the ice but if we're being honest I miss the outdoors. My eyes are finally starting to adjust to the purple & yellow assault they recieve every time I walk in the door. And I'm getting better at ignoring "those girls" in the locker room. Over all it's been a good choice, I'm running more this February than I did last. Also my knees are less angry about the treadmill than the pavement. Last week it warmed up to almost 60 degrees & I had this brief moment where I thought "it's spring!" before I remembered there are at least 3 trick springs in Michigan before the real one gets here. That's when it hit me how much more I like running outside. 

There smells & things to look at also it's nice to feel like you are physically traveling while you run. However my knees weren't pleased with abrupt switch. I realized I have serious problems settling into a pace (once I get there I can keep it but finding is a struggle), and I had totally forgotten what it's like to run hills. Even with all of that I am still looking forward to heading back out in the spring. The gym has done one thing for me, all this consistancy has me considering trying to improve my distance by the end of the calendar year to 8 or 9 miles. I have my sights set on a half marathon in 3 years and that's a big jump from 6.2. That's in on the running adventures for now but I'll keep you updated!

The Great Harry Potter Reread Part 1

I would say most people have that story that they just keep coming back to over & over. Something about it gets associated with comfort or happiness. Like that first book one of your parents or teachers read to you as a child. Maybe it's the movie you watch when you're sick. It could even be the first story where you found yourself in a character or the first time you were exposed to a world view that is not your own. It really doesn't matter what the reason is we all have that story. Mine is the Harry Potter series. It was half accident & half good timing but those are the books that sparked my love of reading and by doing so opened my life up to so many adventures. 

Over last year I had been talking to my friends about how long it's been since we've read them all consecutively. I mean the last movie  was released 5 years ago already!! I have gotten wrapped up in other stories & adventures since the Deathly Hallows book was released which has been wonderful but it was time to go back. So I pitched the idea of a book club to my friends in which we would spend the year rereading Harry Potter. The loved it and thus The Great Harry Potter Reread was born!

We recently had our first book club meeting, and I feel like I should say I've never been a part of a book club before so this is all new for me. I was pleased that our first gathering went so well, and can't wait till we have our next! We covered The Sorcerer's Stone & The Chamber of Secrets at this meeting planning to cover only one book at each following meeting. I thought I'd share with you briefly some highlights of the things we talked about. 

Sorting & Wands

Of course we talked about what our houses would be & what our wands would be! Have  you met a die hard fan that doesn't?? It was interesting to see what people said of them the tally is thus: Me & C. are as Gryffindors, R. & M. as Hufflepuffs, J. & S. as Slytherines, and A. believes she would be a Ravenclaw. So we are pretty spread out. But we talked a lot more about how just one thing can push you from one house into another. For example I teeter the fence between Gryffindor & Ravenclaw but what tips me over to the Gryffindor is my insatiable urge to explore & adventure just for the sake of doing so. The wand discussion was a little less thought out because not as many people think about it really. My favorite quote was from S. "I think my wand would be something just super powerful." Always thinking of getting stuff done ;) 

What did Dumbledore see?

Fun topic to discuss because we will never really know but we spent some time on what we thought Dumbledore would have seen in the Mirror of Erised. Several of us thought it likely he saw his sister, and one actually suggested that he may have really seen socks but I thought the most interesting point here was when someone asked if what you can see changes as you change. I think it's very likely I used Ron as an example because he sees himself all alone in the first book and I doubt very much if he had looked in that mirror in the last book he would have seen himself alone. 

Bully Behavior & Abuse

We discussed the parallels between Harry & Snape because both were bullied pretty badly. Also since many of us work or have worked in mental health we discussed bully behavior & how remarkable it is Harry chose multiple times not to bully others or seek revenge. Where as Snape continued the circle of bullying by bullying a child as an adult. 

On a related note that led us into a discussion of how abusive the Dursleys actually are to Harry. How did they not get the British CPS called on them? I mean there were some pretty serious signs of abuse & neglect going on even for the 80's. What stands out is Harry's resilience to both the abuse from his aunt & uncle and the bullying he faces at school. 

Harry Could Have Been Slytherin

We are told later in the series that the reason the Sorting Hat wanted to put Harry in Slytherin is because of the scar/horcrux leaving residual Voldemort behind. In Chamber of Secrets Dumbledore tells us that really we get to choose our house. I am not disputing either of those factors. Nor would anyone else I think, but we did agree that Harry could have easily been a Slytherin all on his own merrit. He left the Dursley's house determined to prove himself as a wizard. He also proves over & over again that he will not leave things alone until he has proven his case or completed his task. One could also argue that his inability to back down from a challenge is always ambitious and only sometimes brave. We also touched on the fact that if Harry had grown up in the wizarding world he almost assuredly would have been sorted differently. He would have been far more arrogant & likely had a different perspective on life all together. I think Harry was sorted where he should have been but I also agree with the Hat he would have done well in Slytherin.

New Appreciation of Book 2

This one is pretty self explainatory. If you have finished the series (books or movies) you realize when reading through Chamber of Secrets just how many people, items, plot threads, and social dynamics are introduced for the first time in this book. I don't need to list them all here but be ready for us to reference back to CoS when we get to the development of those ideas later. I myself can't wait for the group members that haven't read them before to see just how much they are more developed in the books. 

Random Character Thoughts

Dobby - It was almost unanimous that we hated Dobby in CoS (but that he grows on you later). It felt like just non-stop over the top ridiculousness with him. And as C. brought up how do you get from "I want to save his life" to "the best way to do that is send a bludger after him." 

Dumbledore - We didn't spend a lot of time on Dumbledore because most of the conversation about him has already been posted on the internet. What stood out though was our consensus on the fact that Dumbledore utilized his portrait network way more than you think about when you are reading the books the first time. We did discuss his unique knack for knowing where Harry is under the Invisibility Cloak even though it is never clearly stated if he can actually see him or not. We know he is very perceptive, so it is possible he could over hear small movements & Harry hushing Ron etc, but we did consider that it may have something to do with the fact that as the owner of the Elder Wand he may be able to see him or know where he is because both objects are Deathly Hallows. 

Neville - To be fair we mostly used Neville as a comparison for house traits. What makes Neville great as a character is he reminds us that the traits prized by Gryffindor (and other houses) can be found in all types for people not just the stereotype. He did come up when we discussed how Harry's personality might have been different if he were to have lived in the wizarding world his whole life. We questioned whether Harry was able to break the chain of bullying because he experienced life with the Dursley's or whether that was just his character. We decided on character. Again Neville becomes the comparison because he was bullied at Hogwarts as well but it was decided that if he had to grow up with the Dursleys they most likely would have broken him. Thankfully he didn't because Neville is irreplaceable!

Friday, February 12, 2016

The Divine Comedy

This is a book I have "had on my list" for a long time. I have always felt like The Divine Comedy by Dante was very influential in our society specifically with Western concepts of the Christian after life. I never read it in high school, which is odd because I went to Catholic school, so it went on my list of classics to tackle as an adult.

I really enjoy epic poems so I was pleased that The Divine Comedy was written in that format. I found the language beautiful and amazingly descriptive. So descriptive in fact that I had a conversation with a friend of mine about how to best adapt this story to some kind of visual format. That leads me to what is in my opinion the biggest & maybe only flaw in this story. There is no plot & it parts of it are excruciatingly boring to read! The story is essentially a written tour through the levels of each after life domain. So while the imagery in Inferno is very interesting to read and see how each level of Hell is described with it's various demons & punishments each book gets less interesting. Some of the concepts of how he describes Purgatorio are interesting, I very much liked the visual of the stairs but I got to the point of having to reward myself for finishing it. The same happened with Paridosio.

Perhaps others do not have this issue but I really like to follow some sort of journey, whether it's a classic hero's journey or just any old journey. I enjoy being concerned about the characters & watching the growth happen. I found very little of that in this book which is why I struggled with it so much. I feel like the best quality of The Divine Comedy is how visually descriptive it is. I had no trouble what so every coming up with an image for what the author was describing but as I discussed with my friend it would make a terrible movie. People do not pay to see movies with no plots. We decided that Dante's classic should really be adapted to a manga or graphic novel format (unless it already has been), that way you get the splendor of the stunning images he created and are more engaged throughout the story.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

A Galaxy Far Far Away

The last couple of decades have really been the rise of nerd culture. It started with the super hero movies and has since spread into many other types of nerdiness. For the last few years I have heard people that I never thought would utter these words say, "I really wish I had the money to go to Comic-Con this year."

As many (not all) of my fellow nerds will corroborate this comes with pros & cons. We get to look forward to new movies, television shows, and easy to find merchandise for all of the things we love! But popularity also comes with people making decisions about established franchises that just don't care as much as the loyal fans.

I am far over due on this one but Star Wars: The Force Awakens movie was released in December. I had the pleasure of growing up on the original trilogy & was in high school when the prequel trilogy was release. I went to all three at midnight like a giant dork. When I watched them the first time I was just full of youthful naive excitement and left the theater buzzing that I just saw a brand new Star Wars movie. I mean come on it had been 16 years since a Star Wars movie was released! But the more I watched them & the material settled into my brain I realized they weren't that good. Not like they could have been anyway. Despite quality acting, & some moments of true brilliance the prequel trilogy did not have the same depth as the first trilogy. It did not flow as smoothly and it felt like there was a lot of extra, "stuff" that the plot could have done with out. Things that George Lucas said, "Oooo special effects can do this now we should try." And if you watch them in numerical order (as I recently did) you will find careless inconsistencies with the prequel trilogy.

This time around waiting for the sequel trilogy I remained excited, because I mean STAR WARS! But my excitement was far more cautious knowing that sometimes more of a good thing is just over kill. Sure sci-fi is cool again and that means this movie is going to kill at the box office but will it really add to the franchise or will it buried in the sand like the Star Wars Christmas Special?

After seeing it, and then seeing it again, and THEN letting it settle in my mind a little here are my pros & cons.



This is something I anticipated because Star Wars is and has always been a classic hero's tale. I was not upset by this but it was a challenge at some points because this was the first installment of this trilogy. The "pay off" is still so far away and it is difficult to (at this point anyway) to look at this installment as telling it's own story. Sadly there were points where I was watching that I thought "Wait I've seen this movie already."

Rey's Jedi "On Switch"

I know Jedi abilities are a natural gift & the main character was bound to show above normal talent but there were a few times that I could not help but feel her sudden ability to master various Jedi skill was too good to be true. There were a few, like her piloting ability, where it was obvious the Force was enhancing a skill she possessed that I felt were good indicators that this was our heroine & she will be the wave of the future. As the title suggest the Force was awakening in her but I feel like she should have struggled more considering she had no training & thought the Jedi were a myth at the beginning of the film.

Another Whiny Man-child

I don't think this needs much explaining. I really should have expected, it all the Star Wars movies have one. Luke was pretty whiny in A New Hope & Anikan whined for the majority of the prequel trilogy. My hope is they develop Kylo Ren more in future installments and make his journey to the dark side believable. I like my villain's tough and scary not petulant & whiny.


The Look

One element I noticed more as I let the prequel trilogy settle was that it looked and felt more sophisticated & technologically advanced that the original trilogy despite being set in the past. This was arguably due to the fact that the prequels came out after & there WAS better, more sophisticated technology. I really enjoyed that The Force Awakens looked and felt like the original trilogy despite even more technology being available today. Everything about from the costumes to the sets & props felt like a Star Wars movie.


Before you jump on my case for hypocrisy, what I mean by this is characters & plot lines were consistent from the end of Return of the Jedi to the beginning of Force Awakens. As a writer & an actor it can be challenging to revisit an old story after such a long time. With so many of the characters coming back the viewers are expecting them to be the same, older but the same. There was no conflicting plot points the information we have about the time in between movies made sense & the characters were true to their original depictions. It was like visiting with friends after being apart for a long time.

Girl Power

The Star Wars franchise has always had strong female characters but I loved that we get a female as our main character this time. Not do we get a female lead this time but she is more than just a pretty face or a snarky attitude. Rey is strong (mentally & physically), intelligent, motivated, caring & likable. The writers put enough mystery in her back story to keep the fans guessing and hypothesizing in between movies. I for one can't wait to watch her become a kick ass Jedi!


There will be some, even many that will disagree with me & that's OK. For me though I love the puns, easter egg's, & jokes specifically to throw long time fans back to the originals. It is hard to pick just one but think my favorite throwback was the joke about the garbage compactor. So hate them if you want but I hope there are many more to come!!

When it comes down to it my reaction to this film can be summed up in just one sentence: This is the film we were all hoping for when Episode I was released.