Saturday, October 31, 2015

Happy Halloween!

Halloween is one of my favorite holidays! Seeing all those kids [drinking-age college students] dressing up in those costumes and using their imaginations is one of the best experiences of the year.

But holy cow, do people try to ruin it. Don't you just love it when those intellectual, sensitive types try to suck all the fun out of the costumes? Those poor fools.

Halloween (of today) is the holiday celebrating imagination! This was really driven home to me yesterday, because it was WLC's Halloween in the Halls, where every year, the freshmen decorate their floors and turn them into Halloween fun and games for the kids of professors and alumni. The one floor that really showed me how important Halloween and imagination are was the Jurassic World floor: there were three "dinosaur exhibits" which included a visitor's desk, a T-Rex exhibit, a Raptor exhibit, a Brontosaurus exhibit, and a DNA lab. I lingered for a little bit by the Raptor exhibit, which was pretty much a plastic Raptor head sticking out of paper bushes with a guy behind puppeteering the head to make it move, and I watched the kids come up to the Raptor. I suppose if you asked, they would have known it was fake, but they wanted to play pretend, and these college freshmen were playing along with them. The kids were actually nervous about going near the moving Raptor head, and a guy dressed up as Owen was telling them to come closer, how to safely pet the head, and all that.

Halloween. It's the holiday of imagination.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Why I Write

Yeah, this is fall break, and I haven't been as productive as I would have liked, but I'm still taking time to write this.

Apparently Twitter declared today the National Day on Writing, and they want everyone to post #WhyIWrite in 140 characters or less. Scrolling through the tweets is mildly interesting, especially when some people try to explain deep, profound reasons within the characters a tweet allows, but what really made me smile is when I asked myself why I write.

That isn't really a mystery to me, and I don't make a point of hiding it, but I don't think I've ever explicitly laid out why I write, so here goes. I don't write because I want to change the world, start a dialogue, express myself, or anything like that. It isn't because of any metaphysical grand idea that I'll be immortal through my stories - I think studying history for three years has pretty much made sure that I'll never believe that. It isn't because I'm good at it, although that certainly helps.

I write because it's fun; because I like watching the characters of my imagination come to life in their stories on my computer. That is a special part of writing that, as I will insist to anyone who asks, is priceless. But that is a part that, I think, communicates mostly with me. It's a story, but it's only good enough to satisfy me, and it doesn't become anything better by my doing.

Basically, this post is a long but too-short thank-you to Julie Scandora, my editor. Without her, my stories would never be more than what I need to complete my own experience with my imagination. It's really hard to explain - I've been trying to explain it in the acknowledgement pages of my books for three years, and I can't ever find the right words. But I think, maybe, now I have the right words. Without Julie, my characters and my stories would be mere shadows of what they are when you see them in a finished book - not because the characters themselves are lacking, but because my writing is lacking and I can't see it. Julie sees all my writing's weak points, all the places where I've sold my characters short, all the places where I screw up the story and don't notice it - can't notice it without her.

So, to summarize, this National Day on Writing, I want to thank the woman who makes my writing better in ways that I am powerless to do. Thank you, Julie, from the bottom of my heart.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Happy Columbus Day! (three days late)

If you're like me, you forget Columbus Day is a holiday until someone on the internet reminds you the day of. When I was reminded, I decided I was going to post a few appropriate pictures ... and forgot. Then I decided I'd do it Tuesday... and forgot. Yesterday... forgot. But I remembered today!

I'll get to the picture in a minute, but first, I'd like to make a little argument against calling it Columbus Day. It makes sense to call it Columbus Day, because it's the anniversary of his arrival in the New World at San Salvador after a voyage where he really didn't know where he was going. (At least when the Apollo missions went to the Moon, they knew where the Moon was.) The real reason to celebrate Columbus is that he was willing to take a huge risk without knowing anything that lay ahead. He was a great navigator and he could use the winds to speed his travel, but he didn't know what was waiting for him. I think that's why we celebrate him - because he was willing to take the risk to be an explorer. But here's the thing - he wasn't the only explorer! It's called the "Age of Exploration" for a reason! Not that everyone and his cousin was an explorer, but that, a) the explorations were the highlight of the age rather than more of the same old, same old, and b) that there was enough exploring going on that it could be considered a characteristic of the age. So instead of calling it Columbus Day, I think we should call it Explorer's Day!

Having said that, here are the pictures. If you've been to my Travel Blog, you've seen these pictures before.

If you've seen my Travel Blog, you know I really like this picture

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Two Questions...

I was browsing the Internet (dangerous, I know,) and the experience left me with two questions.

First, what is with all the Marvel Cinematic Universe actors in all these live-action Disney movies?

Second, what is with all these live-action Disney movies???

Come on! Was the original Snow White, the first full-length colored animated movie not good enough for you, that you had to do one with Chris Hemsworth (and Kristin Stewart, Kristin Stewart, as Snow White)? Was the original Cinderella so bad that it needed a Kenneth Brannagh remake (with Hayley Atwell - Agent Carter - as Cinderella's mother)? Do I even need to say anything about Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland? I guess Maleficent is the most justifiable remake, and from what I've seen, the story in and of itself was interesting, but did anyone need to take that particular story and apply it to Sleeping Beauty?

And as if nobody learned their lesson from all of those, we now have two more disasters (that I know of) showing up in theaters. The first just came out recently, I guess, and it's called Pan. Basically, it completely rewrites Peter Pan's perfectly adequate backstory - now he comes to Neverland at 12, and he and Captain Hook start out as friends, along with Tiger Lily, trying to destroy... Blackbeard? (Who's played by Hugh Jackman, Wolverine in X-Men - not MCU, but still based on Marvel books.) Because, if there's one thing that the perfectly adequate and done-to-death story needs, it's a backstory for Captain Hook!

Here's the trailer:
(from YouTube)

And as if that's not bad enough, this came out:
(from YouTube)

The Jungle Book - Rudyard Kipling's most famous work (which, incidentally, includes "Rikki-Tikki-Tavi") directed by the guy who did Iron Man, produced by the studio that trainwrecked the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, and apparently starring Black Widow as Kaa - who thought that was a good idea?

What was wrong with the original?

But wait - that's not all!

Live-action Beauty and the Beast, apparently starring Emma Watson (Hermione Granger) as Belle, Ewan McGregor (the Obi-Wan Kenobi from the Star Wars prequels) as Lumiere, Ian McKellen (Gandalf from Lord of the Rings and old Magneto from X-Men) as Cogsworth (seriously - Gandalf playing a talking clock?!) Luke Evans (Bard, from The Hobbit) as Gaston, and Josh Gad - freaking Olaf from Frozen - as LeFou. If you have a chance, take a look at the cast list over at IMDb. It's amazing - they have every minor character from the animated version, but then they added a king and a queen and apparently Belle's mother ... what? That one's going to be completely off the rails.

And then - as if all this isn't enough - apparently there are plans for a live-action Cruella de Ville movie. They are making a movie about, and I'd bet giving a backstory to, a woman who kills puppies. Do I need to say anything?

Disney, stop. Stop doing those, and instead, do more of this:
(from YouTube)
But no sequels!

Monday, October 5, 2015


I'm sure you've heard by now about the deranged man who shot and killed people in a community college in Oregon. I've heard from several places that he demanded his victims name their faith before shooting them; according to one survivor, if they said they were Christian, he killed them, and if they said they weren't, he shot their legs. On Twitter, there was a responding hashtag and avatar picture that say #IAmAChristian. Lots of people have posted under this, but here is the one I want to focus on:

No, I'm not focusing on this because I support Dr. Carson for president, but instead because he used the Christian fish in his sign. During times of persecution, a Christian looking for a fellow Christian might draw one half of the fish, and another Christian would complete the fish. It was a question and a challenge - "I am a Christian; are you?" - when it would have been easier to be like Peter and say, "No, I'm not a Christian." At a time when Christians are being targeted in the Middle East, and shooters break into college classrooms to target Christians, God still calls us to stand firm and answer, "Yes, I am a Christian" - to complete the fish.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

New Perspectives

You know, I really do love my majors. I love talking about history, as evidenced by my travel blog, and I love talking about literature.

About a week ago, I got to combine both of my majors and my Europe experience in a class discussion. We were talking about my new second-favorite poem called Dream of the Rood - the Rood being the cross Christ was crucified on. The poem tells the story of Christ's crucifixion from the point of view of the cross, making parallels between the cross and the believer, and the poem is tear-inducing both for its theology and its literary beauty.

Anyway, as part of understanding the poem, we also read the legend of the cross, from its growing from a seed from the Tree of Knowledge to Helena finding it in Jerusalem. This legend shows up in the frescoes in the Cathedral of St. Francis in Arezzo. When I posted about that, I got an email from a friend (sent by that little Talk To Me box at the bottom) talking about that legend. In her email, she used a phrase I had never heard of, but when I heard it, it gave me a completely new perspective. Seriously, I felt enlightened after seeing it in her email.

Ready for it?

Here it is:

"Biblical fanfiction."

I cracked up the first time I saw it, not because it's funny, per se, but because such a funny phrase fits the story so very perfectly. When we were talking about Dream of the Rood and the Legend of the Cross in class, I mentioned that phrase, and the response was a combination of laughter and comments that sounded like, "Yeah, that's pretty much right!"

I'm so glad my friend decided to share that insight with me, because it gave me a whole new way to look at some long-standing literature. So if you, dear reader, have an insight about something you're reading, be sure to share it with people around you. You never know who might benefit from it! I was hyperbolizing a little bit about feeling "enlightened," but I am not kidding at all when I say that hearing it gave me new perspectives, and I am very grateful for it.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Kaitie Wade - Tail Lights

You all know how much I enjoy sharing stories about teenagers who take early steps in pursuing their dreams. Well, Kaitie Wade isn't a teenager anymore. She is my age. How do I know this? Well, because we sat next to each other in grade school. As of last February, she is a recording sound artist with one single released, called "Tail Lights." I know nothing about music, so I can't really say any more about Kaitie's song, so I suggest you check out her Bandcamp page. I think you can listen to her song with the right app, and I'm pretty sure it's on iTunes also.

Now I'm wondering if I should find an old picture we're both in and post it here just to embarrass her... (Just kidding. I wouldn't even know where to begin looking.)