Friday, October 29, 2010

Music You've Probably Never Heard -- Gaelic Storm

Hey y'all!  Let's listen to some music.

Okay, so I'm a Irish person by ethnicity, and there are a lot of things I love about Irish styles.  Generally Irish people have three distinctive style types: singing very sad songs about real life, singing songs with harsh, mean, or violent lyrics with an extremely upbeat tune, and finally singing ridiculously happy songs about things that are not even possible.  The first song I ever heard by this band was called Johnny Tarr, and it falls into the last category.  It follows the story of a "hard drinking son of a preacher" and his ability to drink bartenders out of stock.  Honestly, this is the kind of song you can just listen to over and over again and enjoy it every time.  You just have to learn the lyrics and sing along!

This song was made by Gaelic Storm, and I just had to get more of their stuff after I heard this song.  I swear that this band is the most addictive thing ever!  Why you've never heard of these guys is beyond me.  I mean, I hang out in hardcore rave city, and I'm all about these guys.  You don't even have to be Irish to love them.  You'll wish you were though.

Okay, so I'm going to review their album Special Reserve, because I own it.  Or I would if I could find the darn cd.  I'm just lucky I copied most of it on my computer before I lost the darn thing.  Remember, don't just listen to two seconds of these and then skip away.  Really play these songs and listen to the whole thing.  That's the real pleasure of them.

Track one is a traditional Irish song, Courtin' in the Kitchen.  I liked it okay, it's a bit cheesy for me, but it's fun nonetheless.  I'm sorry I couldn't find a normal version of it, but here's a link to a live performance.  They didn't have a normal version on youtube.

Johnny Tarr is next, and if you don't like this song then you are the most pretentious person in existence, I hope you realize.  

Next is The Schooner Lake Set, a lyricless piece that was done for a movie.  There's no video for it on youtube, I'm sorry to say, but it's a great song that's filled with bagpipes and drums and great to just listen to while you...I dunno, clean the house or write a book or something.  Fun Irish stuff.

The Leaving of Liverpool and Drink the Night Away are actually two fairly similar songs in mood and theme.  The Leaving of Liverpool is about an Irishman leaving for America to gain fortune, leaving his love behind for the time being.  It's one of those songs that's sad, but with an upbeat tune.  It's very nice.  I actually like Drink the Night Away, as more of the sadness shows through its merry beat.  The bridge is especially dramatic, and it makes me happy.  It's a very contented song despite itself, and a lot of fun as it talks about going off to make more money and a fortune, though this one seems to be more about leaving friends than a specific love.

The Leaving of Liverpool:

After Hours at McGann's is another lyricless piece, one that's fun and merry.  It's more casual than the Schooner Lake Set, but it's still got lots of fun too it.  Again, youtube is being aggravating.  Grr.  Come on people.

Swimmin' in the Sea is actually a song I don't like.  The tune and singing wail mournfully, and it's something I really hate. It's actually sort of a sweet song about the singer's childhood, and listening to it again...well, it's not quite as bad as I thought. I'm still not really into it, but look at it and see if you like it.

This next song is the most addictive song on this dang cd.  I let my friend listen to this, and he couldn't get over how fun it was.  It's the story of a man whose life went completely wrong, either by a woman or alcohol.  And that's the best part of this song, as it doesn't say which one is the real culprit but poetically equates wayward women to booze.  It's hilarious.  Match that with a fun beat, and it's one of the greatest songs I've ever heard. It has a long intro, but the lyrics are well worth the wait.

She was the Prize slows down the cd and get sentimental.  It's a really sweet song about a man and his true love, and it almost makes me cry.  It's very sweet.  Take a listen, y'all.

Johnny Jump Up/Morrison's Jig is another powerhouse of the disc.  Plain and simply, it rocks.  It's a song about an impossible cider that does a multiplicity of hilarious things.  You're gonna love this one. Gah, I have so many memories of my boyfriend singing this terribly off-tune.  

Johnny Jump Up/Morrison's Jig:

Next is Titanic Set.  That's right, these guys were in Titanic.  I bet you forgot all about them if you saw that movie, didn't you?  This is a pretty good song, very peppy and nice.  Feels like two songs in one.

Ah, now this song is fun.  It's Tell Me Ma, a fun song about men flirting with a pretty girl.  It's very silly, but you've just got to hear it.  Fun as mess.

This album finishes up with Beggarman, the most hyper and lyrically tangled up of the bunch. You've really got to be hardcore to keep up with all these words.  It's a very fast song about the life of a beggar who makes his own life and enjoys every bit of it, just as you'll do with this song.

Before I leave off, I want to include a song that isn't on this album, but I just heard about and really want to share with you.  It's honestly the funniest thing ever.  It tells the true story of the time the lead singer of this band literally punched Russell Crowe in the face.  

Well, they've done a lot of songs over the years, but I'll let you find more of them.  They are a very silly, fun band, one of the most fun you'll ever encounter. 

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Nitpickery -- Mega Man movie review

Hey y'all. I know I said I was going to review Disney princess movies, but for my lack of ownership of them (and my desire to not steal) I'm going to have to delay this for a bit. Besides, there are other things I want to review because they are interesting to me. I'm going to be reviewing a fan film, done entirely out by non-professionals, in particular Eddie LeBraun, the director. They actually did a pretty good job for what they had, though I'm going to nitpick them anyway, because that's what I do. Overthinking is fun! Yay!

Okay, so this film is called Mega Man. I kept thinking that "Get Equipped" was part of the title, but that's just the tagline. Anyway, it's basically a retelling of the plot of the first Mega Man game on the original NES. Man those were the days. I miss 'em. I'm just old enough to barely remember a commercial for the Game Genie that actually came on TV years ago. Anybody remember that? Naturally with my love of original video games (it hasn't been long enough for them to be retro!), I just had to see this film. I'm kinda shocked how good aspects of it are. I think we're going to see more of LeBraun as time goes by.

So the story of the movie goes thusly: Dr. Light and Dr. Wily are genius robotics scientists that have just developed a line of robot masters that will perform duties to make life easier for humans. After Dr. Wily is expelled from the project, Dr. Light and his robot "daughter" Roll proceed to build another robot, this one called Rock. Jealous of Light's fame and accolades, Dr. Wily steals the robot masters and uses them to devastate Fujiwara City. Rock decides to risk his life and become Mega Man, a fighter robot capable of taking down Wily and putting an end to the terror. He his helped from time to time by the mysterious Blues (AKA Proto Man) who is Dr. Light's first creation, a robot that ran away from the lab to seek his own fate.

This movie is actually visually effective for something not on a big budget. The cinematics of it are great, and the camera angles do their best to show off the places where these are filmed. I'm pretty sure that it was filmed in New York, but the movie calls it Fujiwara City. In the games it was Monstropolis, but whatever. The name change isn't a big deal. S'all good. It's not like Monstropolis is all that great a name anyway.

So, yeah, the way it was filmed was definitely the best part of this film. Being a fan film, they simply didn't have the budget to make something too spectacular, as far as fight scenes and costuming went. Also, they couldn't show anything blowing up, because naturally this was filmed in a city and you can't blow up public property. Not without getting arrested, anyway. So, there's no damage to the city from the rampaging masters, a column of smoke looks very solid, and trying to make Cut Man's hand blades fly out convincingly makes creative battles take a hit.

The movie opens up with Dr. Light doing a check up on Roll right before a reporter is due to show up and put Dr. Light and his new robot masters on television to gain exposure and begin to sell them commercially. I have a bit of a problem with this scene: why is Dr. Light letting a reporter into his lab when this is also his house? That's a security compromise, to say the least. Tyler Perry filmed Diary of a Mad Black Woman partially at his house, and he eventually had to move because people knew what his house looked like and wouldn't leave him alone. I'm just saying, it's probably better for Dr. Light to pick a warehouse or some neutral site to display his creations.

Also, the camera (the one the reporter's camera man is holding) is pretty close to the reporter's face at one part. You can't imagine he's getting a good shot. Even worse is when the reporter is signing off, and the camera, instead of letting the robots be in the background (which any reporter would want to showcase), lets a very moody Wily be very clearly on camera and brood. I know that LeBraun probably wanted to show Wily's jealously, but there are other ways to go about it.

Before I get too much further, let's talk about the acting job of the first actors to come on. The reporter and camera man were fine in acting, though I felt the reporter was slightly too cheesily done. Decent enough. Can't complain. The real gem of the first part, and indeed all of the movie, is Jeanie Tse as Roll. She's friggin' perfect. She's not particularly how I view Roll is, but she's even better. Jeanie is perfect in the part of playing a robot who is silly, sweet, and a bit too abrupt to be human. The slight awkwardness and total sugar innocence Tse brings to this character really brings about the idea of what Roll always was supposed to be in the games. In the Mega Man universe there's always been a thematic conflict between fighting wars and innocence, and this Roll stands perfectly on the side of innocence. She doesn't understand evil, and doesn't try.

Some people who watched this commented that Roll was annoying, but they're wrong. I'm calling it like it is. Any annoyance she has is like C3P0's in Star Wars: perfectly fitting for the realm in which it's portrayed. Certain people are probably too sensitive to that kind of thing, or maybe they just have a tag-along sister like Roll at home.

Ah, now the actors who played Dr. Light and Dr. Wily are Edward X. Young and Dave Maulbeck, respectively. These two characters side by side...okay, let's do this one at a time.  This is going to take some explaining.

Wily was fairly terrible, at least at first. A lot of people seemed to think that he stole the movie in the same sense that the Joker stole the movie The Dark Knight, and quite frankly it makes me ashamed that people have such an opinion of this Wily. He didn't do a great job. Then again, I haven't seen The Dark Knight, so whatever.

My criticism of this movie's Wily goes like this: he's pretty one-note. You're almost always seeing him through close-ups of his perpetually sweaty face (come on, makeup people) and he's always bickering about how important he is or how badly he's being treated. It's really annoying. Can't we see him chill for a minute and...I dunno, make a hot dog or do a crossword puzzle or something? Releasing the tension once in a while would help.

The way I always viewed Wily in the games was that he was always determined, and always ready to stack circumstances to make him look smarter.  I mean, come on, this guy has been defeated by Mega Man like ten times already without showing sign that he'll ever give up. He's got to be the most arrogant and gleefully evil baddie ever. Seeing Maulbeck whine and complain for the first two thirds of the movie was annoying. Wily might whine, but he's never unable to compliment himself and enjoy his intelligence. This is the Wily we get to see the last half hour of the film, one who is confident and boastful until the very last second. That I appreciated.

Also, his accent was very annoying. I think they were trying to go for something Germanic, but it really came across as a partly Russian accent, and a bad one at that. He's too deliberate in his constant turning of Ws into Vs. Gah. It was really distracting. I really hope they weren't trying to for a Russian accent, because that just doesn't seem like Wily, and if LeBraun wanted to do a sequel with the Russian Dr. Cossack, it just wouldn't fit right.

As far as looks go, I was pretty annoyed at first that Wily wasn't portrayed by a bald man. After a while, I let it go. It wasn't important for the character to look note for note like the game version, and this one wasn't too bad, other than being perpetually sweaty and having hair look like it was painted. I kinda liked it in the end. However, his looks, satisfactory as they were, created a reality conflict with the looks of Ed Young.

Let me explain. Maulbeck had a goofy, parodiacal appearance and over-emotive acting. Dr. Light's actor was the exact opposite: he was played by a guy who actually was older, and looked genuine rather than being some guy in a costume. I absolutely adored how LeBraun actually found a guy who could pull off the Dr. Light style, but this guy's acting had the exact opposite problem as Maulbeck's. He was very dull sounding, and it rarely felt like any of the serious topics he spoke of had any real emotional connection to him. He rambled on in the same mild tone without really making me believe he cared about anything going on.

It would have helped if he added more physical movement to his acting. Little things, like sighing, or rubbing his head, or scratching his ear, or fiddling with some technological whatnot. Maybe if he's upset he can slam a screwdriver down on a table. When he moved like this (very rarely in the film) it was a far more believable performance.

So, when you put these actors side by side, it really looks weird. Young looks very real and serious, while Maulbeck looks goofy and trying to make people laugh. It's just impossible to take this work seriously when both are side by side. It's like putting a clown in a movie where intense jurors are trying to decide if a man is guilty of murder. For the most part, I blame Maulbeck (or the way Dr. Wily was written) because this film more or less tried to have a serious tone about robots trying to understand humanity. Alternatively, LeBraun could have gone a more silly route and thus Maulbeck would have fit in better, but as is Wily wasn't a good villain. I mean, sure he's supposed to be an angry, jealous, emotional guy, but at the same time this dude is dangerous. It's very difficult for me to take whiners seriously. For most of this movie, I didn't feel the danger that should have been eminating from him. 

Let's move on. After the interview, Dr. Light takes Dr. Wily into his office and tells him that he's fired, thus ending their friendship (I'm going to cut out spoilers after this, but this isn't too huge a point, so don't worry). My problem with this is the excuse Dr. Light gives him: he wants to work on his new robot by himself. Well, he's just made a bunch of other robots, so why can't he just work on his robot by himself and let Dr. Wily handle making more commercial bots to supply the inevitable demand that his interview would bring? There are plenty of other reasons to fire Wily. Like his bad attitude and hygene. Or maybe Dr. Light already suspects that Dr. Wily is a looney. It's weird that we never see Dr. Light and Wily really being friends. I mean, Light put up with Wily for a reason.

Actually, y'know what? You don't actually have to make it so Dr. Wily was fired. You could have him just get pissed off really bad one day and just steal the robot masters with the access he has already. Maybe the new robot, Rock, will be so good at assisting Dr. Light that Dr. Wily just gets pissed off and starts blowing stuff up. I would have loved to see Wily interact with Rock before their fight against each other.

During the next part, Dr. Light works on Rock while Wily complains some more to his sentient AI computer Olga, played by Elizabeth Lee. Now she was a pretty good actress, and her accent, while still more Russian than German, actually sounded good. Too bad they don't really use her for anything. She's just kinda there for a couple of scenes and "poof", away she goes, never to be seen again. She has a couple of jokes, but overall her lack of a background or a future makes her pretty irrelevant.

Okay, this is a PSA to all people writing baddies: don't have them rant and rave about revenge and outdoing the good guys and then the good guys just forget all about it and get surprised when the baddie does something evil. In this movie it wasn't as bad as others, but still.

The scheme to make Fujiwara City suffer continues, and the six robot masters start causing mayhem. Rock chooses to upgrade into a fighter-bot and call himself Mega Man, because there is no one else to stop Dr. Wily.

Let me stop right there for a second. Okay, if a movie maker doesn't have the ability to make something show up in your movie, he shouldn't reference it. I'm talking about the lesser robots, like Sniper Joes and the like that you fight in the game on the way to the bosses. It's obvious this movie didn't have enough money to make complex lesser baddies, so they should have made the plot circle around their absense, not point it out glaringly. Ooh, I have an idea. If mindless robots were needed to imply the extent of Dr. Wily's control over the city, then combine the Sniper Joes and Mettools. Have people wearing all black, including masks, and then put a met helmet on them. Boom! There you go! They can be the generic baddies to spice up action scenes.  Maybe they have a shield, they definitely have guns, and you can call them Metool Joes.  Fans would appreciate something like that.

Jun Naito plays Rock. He does an okay job. He is fairly convincing of being a more or less innocent robot who just wants to help. I wish they had been less "Oh, I don't want to fight" and more "I'll do whatever it takes to save the day", because that's the real attitude of Mega Man in the game: dorky and naiively heroic. Not too big a problem, though, and I enjoyed his performance. Not great, but hey, he did the job.

Y'know, I really like how Rock, Roll, and Blues are all Asian people. Mega Man as a series comes from Japan, so naturally these people would be Japanese. It's a pleasant change, and you can really tell that casting was done with proper actors in mind, of those who were available. Some of the commenters said that Rock was boring, and I guess I see where they come from with that. He's pretty good during the earlier parts of the movie, but towards the end he gets really dull from trying to be cool. I guess it's easier for people to play awkward characters than cool ones. Like in the Matrix how Neo is far more interesting at the beginning of the movie than he is at the end.

We have Elec Man, Ice Man, and Fire Man as the actors with body armor on, and Cut Man, Guts Man, and Bomb Man are the digitally created masters. I liked the digital guys, but my problem with them was that their personalities weren't very clear cut. The Mega Man 1 remake Mega Man Powered Up gave these robot masters cheesy personalities, and for the most part LeBraun follows these to a more serious extent (Powered Up was some cheese, man), it just didn't seem like the digital guys weren't distinctive enough. It wasn't the acting so much as the writing. You can call Fire Man delusional, Ice Man schizoid, and Elec Man arrogant, but there's no real way to describe the others this plainly. Whatever. At least they looked awesome. I particularly like how Cut Man's design was upgraded to make him look more deadly.

The live action robot masters were awesome! Fire Man's looks were great, but I had a problem with him. They made him obsessed with justice and think that Wily was doing the right thing, but the problem with that is there's no real logical connection between blowing things up and justice. He could have really bolstered Wily's performance by having Fire Man say things about all people being appreciated for their genius or somesuch like that. As it was, his words sounded like ranting. The actor, Hugo Salazar Jr (awesome name!), did a good job with what he had to work with, and I like how much crazier than the other robots he was.

Ice Man! Wayne Chang! Wayne was a perfect pick. He was so cute, just like Ice Man, and he did a good job bringing to life the master. However, of all the robot masters ever designed, Ice Man should have been the easiest to costume. He wears a cute blue parka in the game, but not in the movie. Why not? He would have looked a lot more distinctive and sweet. Come on....please? For me?

Alan Fung as Elec Man to me was the second greatest acting job in the movie. He was magnificent, and I really believed him as the macho, arrogant bastard that Elec Man definitely is. I wish he could have had a greater role in the movie, like stealing something (spoiler: the designs for Rock to make Copy Robot) from Dr. Light. He was just too devious a baddie to die so soon. And he had great hair. LeBraun does a sequel to this movie, he needs to cast Alan Fung as Quick Man. And in the meantime, somebody needs to cast Alan Fung in something else, because he has acting gravitas.

My one problem with Elec Man is the way he died. Well, not the physical way, because that was pwn, but who did it. Spoiler alert, go skip ahead if you don't want to read this. Proto Man kills him. I know that Proto Man is supposed to help Mega Man out, but until Mega Man 9, Blues never actually assisted Mega in any actual fighting, and that's only if you count Proto Man's downloadable play mode as plot canon (I don't). Even worse, Elec Man, a very dangerous master in the game, isn't able to damage Proto Man at all. Proto Man is a prototype to the newer robots, so shouldn't he be weaker? Lame.

Also, this movie is about Rock going to fight the robot masters because nobody else can. This bit really shoots that in the foot because if Proto Man can do so without incurring damage to himself, what's the point? It's a huge letdown. In Mega Man 3, Proto Man's first game appearance, he actually fights against Mega Man because he doesn't trust him right away. Couldn't they have done something like that? It would have been really intruiging if Proto Man thought Rock was just a stupid hero automaton Dr. Light made to save everyone. Or heck, save that entire plotline for a sequel, and just have PM do a cameo or two just to watch Rock and see what's up. Another idea would be to have him actually work for Dr. Wily because for whatever reason he's tricked into trusting Dr. Wily more. Something.

Spoilers are done now.

Okay, so let's talk about Sung-Mo Cho, who played Proto Man. Most of my complaints for him are due to faulty writing, not acting. He did a good job being the mysterious and slightly self-righteous Proto Man, and I can tell I would have enjoyed him more but for plot awkwardness. I mean, come on, (spoiler!) his free will results from a power core error? That's like saying a clock gets free will because its batteries started leaking. There are better ways to say he has free will. And since clearly Rock and Roll have free will themselves (Rock's choice to be a hero was his own, Roll's choice to make pancakes instead of eggs was her own), it's pretty ridiculous that fixing the error would make him an automaton. There's better ways to make him run away from home.

Also, the problems between Proto Man and his estranged creator are potentially very complex. I feel that they are oversimplified in this movie, and they more or less get resolved in the end. Come on, let some bitterness drag on a while for intruigue's sake! Instead Proto Man seems to be handled in the exact way to prevent LeBraun from having good drama for a sequel. Honestly, the subplot of Dr. Light's wife was fairly poorly done, and cutting out Proto Man would have given both it and Rock some time to develop. Of course, that sort of does tie LeBraun down to a sequel, and he'll probably want to change it up at some point. Bah, nobody ever does anything for the Mega Man 5 robots...they're my favorite...wah. Whine whine, complain complain.

Okay, so throughout the action of this movie, there are times when the action just slows to a crawl and Dr. Light gets out needless explosition. First of all, you'd be surprised how good a work is when it's trimmed down, and secondly, it's always better to show rather than tell. It feels like nobody can ask Dr. Light anything without him giving a long winded answer. And when Mega Man finally defeats the robot masters, the plot starts really kicking, only to be slammed in the face with how the fight with the yellow devil ends. Honestly, that plot point needed to be cut out entirely. Use the time on it to extend the fight with yellow devil and make it look awesome.

You know, in this Wily complains that Dr. Light isn't the only one who's lost someone. It would have been really interesting to find out that Olga was really Wily's dead sister that Wily put into a computer to save her life. Or maybe just have him muse over someone really important to him that died or left him, or something. That would have been cool. Not really necessary, but cool.

I really love Wily's freak out session when he finally loses at the end. It combines the hilarity of Wily begging for his life like in the games with the seriousness of Wily's real hurt from his lifelong rejection.

Okay, so to sum it all up, there are several things good and bad about this movie, but overall, it feels very much like the fanfiction I read over at It's an origin story for Mega Man, it doesn't go too far from the game's bounds and give it more creativity, and the plot feels clunky whenever it has to transition from one scene to the next. Writers will be very inspired for certain moments of a story they want to write, but in between those they have to figure out how they're going to make everything work.

This may have been a low budget film, but good writing costs only time, not money. The dialogue itself was fairly good, other than Dr. Light being forced to be Captain Exposition, Wily not being able to do anything but whine for the first hour, and Fire Man's ranting. If proper plot planning had been done, then much of the film's problems could have been avoided. As a writer, I see things like this and wonder how they happen. Writing alone would have turned this film around and made it much better. Costuming and a better computer budget would have helped, but not to this extent.

This film is fairly good if you are a fan, but for those of you who aren't into Mega Man or don't know what it is, it's a fairly standard action movie with a few cute moments. Heck, I like it despite all of its flaws. It's fun, silly, and in certain ways better than Hollywood could do. I look at this movie and see a great big wad of potential. Go to and click the link to check it out.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Music You've Probably Never Heard -- Ofra Haza

Hey y'all. It's time for some more music you've probably never heard. Y'know, when I pick music for this page, I generally choose artists who aren't mainstream to the normal audience. Therefore artists with their own popularity outside of the mainstream are still available for posting here. And that's why I'm picking Ofra Haza, someone who really deserved a lot more popularity that she got, and she did get a decent amount.

Ofra Haza was a Yemenite Jew, and she was discovered at the age of eight for her singing talent. Her voice has been described as nearly perfect. She sang mostly traditional Jewish songs, as well as eighties synthpop. During the nineties she drifted a little more into pop, but at the end of the day she was always better (in my opinion at least) at bringing out the wild sounds of the Middle East. Throughout the course of her career she released several albums, starred in a few films, and was offered to do concerts with Michael Jackson (which she turned down). She also provided vocals for the movie The Prince of Egypt, where she played the mother of Moses.

That's right, she sang River Lullaby:

That's the thing. People know about this song, but they don't actually realize that she's got plenty of other stuff that's well worth listening to. There's plenty of things on iTunes for her. Her most popular song is by far Im Nin Alu, a traditional song that was rearranged for her and to really connect with mainstream worldpop sensibility. I personally prefer the original version, which is a more relaxed song that's fun to sing with your friends. The first line of the song declares "if all the doors on earth are locked, the doors of Heaven are always open". It's a beautiful Jewish song that's really touching.

Im Nin Alu (original):
Im Nin Alu (Ofra version):

Ofra didn't start out popular. She starred in one film where she was the girlfriend of a very boring man, so the character burst out in song about how she is enamored of fashion, makeup and celebrities -- she's a frecha. Frecha is an arabic word that we don't quite have an equivalent to, but it basically means a shallow person only interested in the flashy things of life and having a good time. In certain communities this can be connotated into meaning "slut" or "loose", which is why the english title of this song is "the bimbo's song". It's kind of misleading, because that's not what the song is about and not something a girl like Ofra would stand for, but in any case the song itself is very fun. Though the movie has faded into pretty much obscurity, this song has remained Ofra's classic piece, one she is known for the most. I wish I had the outfit she wears in it.

Shir Ha'Frecha:

One of my favorite albums is Fantasy, a very weird eighties album that iTunes doesn't have (darn you iTunes!). It includes tracks like Yad Anuga, Fighter, a version of Galbi (Heart), and the title song Fantasy, which has the trippiest music video you've likely ever seen. I'm also going to include a later version of Galbi, because I like it better. Trippy eighties for the win!

Yad Anuga:
Galbi (Sehoog Mix):

Here are some other great songs by her. One of my favorite ones is where she's literally singing out of the Bible, in Song of Solomon. It has no background music, making it one of her most remixed songs. It's just called Love Song. I wish I could put up the best remix, but it's no longer on youtube. I haven't really been able to find a very good mix of it, though one of the iTunes mixes is half-decent, if rather mellow. There's also Mm'mma, one of the songs I first found when I started searching for her work. This really shows off the extremes of her voice. A great mix was done of her song Taw Shee, and if you really want to party to something of hers, that's a great example. I also like Ma Omrot Einaich, a quieter, poetic piece. Check 'em out.

Love Song:
Taw Shee:
Ma Omrot Einaich:

Oh hey, while I'm at it, check out Ya Ba Ye, a ridiculously awesome song about becoming famous and leaving home. Oh yeah, and here's this thing where she's hanging out with another Israeli singer, Aaron Amram. It's pretty awesome.

Ya Ba Ye:

Her last album to come out was a self-titled album that came out in 1997 and drifted into more mainstream pop. I'll go into detail for this album, because I actually have the cd. This too they don't have on iTunes. Sheesh, what is it with iTunes and not having the albums I want? The first track is Show Me, a song referring to Jewish traditions. It's pretty good. A bit fluffy for me, but still a fun piece.

Show Me:

Track two is Amore, a melodramatic piece that's still wonky enough to really be interesting. It's a romantic song, and if you're a lovey dovey sort of person (I'm not really) then you'll like it.


Track 3 is the worst remix of Im Nin Alu ever. First of all, it's only a little more than her classic remix, secondly, what it does add doesn't enhance the song at all. Just for the sake of completion I'll post a link, but don't bother with it if you don't feel like. I'll throw in another remix for you, one that I don't know the artist's name. For that remix, just ignore all the disturbia crap and listen to the song. That's my favorite non-Ofra mix of the song, and I can only hope that someone else gets the sense to make a good music video of it. There's forty bajillion mixes of this song on youtube, but as is the case with overremixed tunes, most of them are meh at best.

Im Nin Alu 2000:
Im Nin Alu (ignore the video mix):

Okay, so now we get to a good song. Sixth Sense is a song about hearing from God, and how much of a mystery it is. This song saddens me because I've heard from God some, and it kind of implies that it's impossible. That annoys me. But that's a personal problem, so go ahead and listen to it anyway.

Sixth Sense:

My Ethiopian Boy is pretty good, but it annoys me with its pop-sensibility. It's just way too pretentious. As a demi-undergrounder, every time a celebrity sings or talks about foreign countries, I get dubious. I just don't trust famous most people to talk sensibly and realistically about different cultures. I mean, if you have a hard time going to the more country parts of the USA, then I don't trust you to take a logical stance about all people different from you. There's good and bad about all peoples, and glorifying more obscure peoples simply for the exploitation of it in your music just makes me sick. Okay, enough ranting. This song, decent, but it's way too pop. Ethiopian people are pretty pwn, though. Go google Saint Lalibela.

My Ethiopian Boy:

Ah, now this is the real crown of the album! Track 6 is Ahava, the wonkiest and best song on the cd. I love it so much! It reminds me of eighties movies, where the lead characters are going through the weirdest crap ever. Think Labyrinth or The Never Ending Story (the first one, not the sequels). It's weirdness for weirdness' sake, and I can't get enough. This is a song to really listen to and enjoy how bizarre and pulsing this gets.


Next up is No Time to Hate, a song that I really should dislike more than I do. Honestly, it's silly celebrity lovey-dovey whatnot, and hate has its time and place. But once this song gets to the part "I hope you see as far as I see, I hope you see like I do", I just get all happy and silly. It makes me want to sing and twirl around like an innocent character in a weird movie who's trying to lighten up the lead character. If you're silly and/or pretentious, you'll like this song. No need to be uptight about it.

No Time To Hate:

I gotta be honest, I always skip this next song. It's You've Got a Friend, just a remake of somebody else's work. This is way to tame for the great vocal range that Ofra had. I don't like it when artists do covers, unless that cover is basically a remix. There's no need to sing a song exactly the way the normal artist does, unless it's karaoke night or you're a celebrity impersonator. Trivia time: the way to say karaoke bar in korean is "noh-reh-bahng". Not that you needed to know that, but yeah. Next!

You've Got a Friend:

When the customizable internet radio on used to be free, I would listen to this song a lot. You is a really dramatic song, and now that I've matured as a person, it's too melodramatic for me. Heck, maybe you'll like it. It's mildly hard for an Ofra song,


Yay! Give Me a Sign is my second favorite song on this album, and it reminds me of my oldest nephew because he was born at the time I started listening more to Ofra. It's really a gem, and if you only listen to two songs of these, listen to Ahava or this one. This is more calm and warm than Ahava, and it's also more sad. Something about it is so darkly tragic, as if Ofra knew she was going to die soon and is saying goodbye. At the Hebrew bit at the, it's so sad.

Give Me a Sign:

I think there's another song on this album, but I don't really remember it because it was too pretentious for me even in my pretentious days when I bought the cd. So yeah, none of that now. I doubt I'd find a link to it on youtube anyway. Honestly, I think if Ofra had lasted into the modern age of music, I wouldn't listen to her stuff. She was going the way of mainstream, and I personally dig her more eighties work. The pretentiousness was growing in her, just as it does with a lot of famous singers. People say you can't predict the future, but really there are some things that you should see coming. Like driving into a brick wall, for instance. People just tend to want what they want, and because they want it so bad they ignore all the warning signs and just go do that stupid thing, not regretting it until that stupid thing hits them in the face.
What are we talking about, again?

It was 2007 when I started searching for Ofra Haza's music. I was thinking about the movie Prince of Egypt, and I wanted to check out her singing again. That's how I noticed her other songs, and also how I found out she was dead. She died in April of 2000. There's some weirdness to her death, and you'll see it listed as the flu at some websites. It doesn't take a lot of investigation to find out more details. Apparently she had AIDS. Her husband that she married in 1997, Doron Ashkenazi, was not a good choice, to say the least. Ofra was not the sort of person to sleep around or do drugs, but Doron did them, and quite frankly I don't understand why Ofra married him. There's a lot there that isn't talked about and I can't say.

From what I have learned, apparently Doron didn't want her to get treatment because he was afraid of the stigma AIDS brought with it at the time. If only he knew that the stigma of being responsible for his wife's death would be so much worse. In interview with Ofra's sisters revealed that Doron was afraid to bring Ofra to the hospital even during her very last days, and that they were afraid of him. It's difficult to be mad at Doron, though, because after everything was over, it's quite obvious that he was deep in guilt. A year and a half later he was still very upset about it, and he died from heroin use. I'm almost willing to classify it as suicide.

Heck, this whole thing was a big case of people not turning away from the brick wall they were driving straight for. People, look at what you're doing now, and look at what the results of that will be. Don't just do something because you really want to do it. Think about how this will affect not only you, but other people. Your fate is not yours, but the fate of everyone you meet. You can either be light or darkness, a small bit of happy or slap in the face. Maybe you want to be mad at someone who wronged you, but what will that result in? Screaming at them won't gain you an apology. It will only result in bitterness and anger. Sleeping around will result in emotional turmoil, drugs will result in the loss of motivation and soul, and compromising principles results in a lack of backbone. You know when you're doing something stupid, so stop it.

The bridge of Shir Ha'Frecha says that the fate of every frecha is a good apartment and an ideal husband. If only that were true.

RIP, Ofra.

What is it with artists I like dying? I really need to stop liking people. I totally hate DJ Redlight. Yeah. He sucks.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Music You've Probably Never Heard -- Grab Bag

Hey y'all, it's time for more music you've probably never heard! This week I'll be doing a grab bag mix of different songs I listen to from various artists, but I don't listen to much of the artists themselves. There's lots of reasons for this, depending on each artist, but these songs are still well worth listening to. Mostly I tend to be listening to harder things (either that or foreign pop), but this should include other genres I listen to as well. But like all of my posts, this too is about expanding what you listen to and learning that there's a lot more out there than the boring trash they play on the radio.

Let's start with a song I can guarantee you likely haven't heard, because this is done by a rising artist in California. This is pop, and I guess I'll call it garage pop because the band isn't professional. He's called Pitch Michael, and the song I listen to of his is called "The Happy Song". I love this song because it's just completely silly, and you have to listen to it. Michael is the main singer, and his brother Levi is also in the video, along with their friend Jamal. The main reason I don't listen to more of their songs is because they don't have that much up there on youtube. I met Levi a couple of years ago, and he's a pretty cool guy, and he showed me the video. Really, this is just too cute to miss.

The Happy Song:

The next artist I is also a youtube group, and they're called the Klein Four Group. I don't know much about them, only that I found them one day when I was looking for nerdy parodies of popular songs. Honestly, this occapella group is magnificently skilled, though I suspect that they no longer exist because not only do they have little up on youtube, but they also sing in a college, meaning at some point they're going to graduate. That doesn't mean that this song doesn't deserve a listen. Despite the "Four" in their name, there's actually five guys in this video, and they're singing a love song about complex math. Seriously, you practically need a degree to understand it. That however, does not stop the absolute adorableness of this song from showing through. It's nerdy, but very skillful.

Finite Simple Group of Order Two:

Let's go back to a professional band, shall we? This next song is something from Gabba Front Berlin. It is in the speedcore subgenre, and speedcore is questionably not music. Seriously, it's known for being around 1000 beats per minute. It will give you a serious headache if you listen to it too long. That said, I have found one speedcore song that is actually good and poetic, artistic, even. This song is called Lacrima Mosa Est, also known as Speedcore Lacrima. You can find it by both names on Youtube. Honestly, this song is beautiful: hardcore and pulsing and yet soothingly smooth. I don't listen to other GFB songs, mostly because I don't care for songs that dwell on darkness, and heck, speedcore will make your brain blow up. Warning: this song is for the hardcore only. If you are not hardcore, do not click the link.

Lacrima Mosa Est:

The next song is from Doctor Who. Now, everyone has heard the Doctor Who theme at one point or another, even if they don't know where it's from. That's not the song I'm talking about. Those of you who are not nerds will not know this, but Doctor Who is going through its second reboot after several years of not being on the air. For this reboot, the British National Orchestra has gotten involved because this is a show Britain really cares about. It's classic for them. Normally I'm not huge into orchestras, but one song in particular written for the character Rose Tyler is gorgeous, and I just had to buy it off of iTunes. It really stands out as something gorgeous and dramatic. You just have to listen to this song. Don't worry about not being familiar with the show, just let whatever images come to mind what will as you listen to this song.


Let's get more into the electronic arts, as if I don't put up enough electronica as it is. This trance piece, however, deserves mention. Trance is not a popular genre, and the divided halves of trance hate each other, making it even harder to get into. This track by The Traveler and In Motion is absolutely perfect, despite the genre's history. It's meditative, passionate, determined, and absolutely wonderful. This song is called Believe, and the few lyrics it has are very meaningful. Give it a listen. The main reason I don't listen to more of this band is because very few bands in the electronic realm manage to aspire to popularity in any circuit, simply because there are so many of them. They tend to have one song that really pops, and the rest sink into whatever fanbase they have that already exists.


Like I said earlier, I love foreign pop. Korean pop in particular is a favorite of mine, and even if you don't understand a word of it you can't help but try and sing along in whatever broken korean you're familiar with (or think you're familiar with). SNSD is a band of nine girls, and one day as I was puttering around youtube I came across Gee. I looked up the lyrics, and this is a silly love song about melting for a man that doesn't know she exists. It's a really sweet, fun song that really digs itself into your brain without letting go. I don't listen to this band, mostly because it's generally too sugary for me, but this one song reminds me of my man, and how he makes me feel.


Now, I'm an Irish person, and I love my ancestors. They are crazy people and I love them for it. Now, there are two types of Irish styles that are distinctly of the culture: one is to have a really depressing and/or violent song with an amazingly upbeat tune (their national anthem, for example), and the other is to write a very depressing tune about a personal tragedy. This song falls into the latter category, and it about an Irish battle against the British invaders. Britain and Ireland have had a very bad history, and for over 700 years Ireland has had to deal with some sort of oppression from their neighbors. I will get into this in a later post, but for now suffice to say that the two haven't always been best friends.

This particular song is beautiful and very poetic. Few songs can describe war in such a poetic and yet accurate way. It's lovely, a work by Sinead O'Connor and the Chieftains. I don't really listen to the Chieftans because they're just not what I'm into, and even though Sinead has a great voice, her weird and often contradictory life kinda throws me off. You can really tell that she's the person so desperate to be accepted that she's too willing to be malleable.

The Foggy Dew:

Now, Tricky Disco is a band I like very much. I do want to give them their own entry in this blog, but I really can't. Not a lot of their songs are available on youtube, or even iTunes. Plus, this band has changed their names time and time again, so as Tricky Disco they only have so much out. However, I do want to present to you two of their self-titled songs (pretentious, no?) which I like very much. The original is very plunky and wonky, and the music video is even more trippy. It's fun stuff, and it doesn't take itself seriously. The second mix is my absolute favorite, and I just love how story-esque it is. It's fun and beautiful, and very contented.

Tricky Disco:

Tricky Disco (Plone Mix):

Okay, one more song. This one is by Trip Lee, a rapper. Normally I'm not into rap, but this track really got to me. Like I said in my last post, I am a Christian, so I do listen to Christian tracks. I really love this one, as it's a song about not being stuck on yourself, because life is not about yourself. In fact, it's about everyone besides yourself, God and people. A lot of people don't get the whole "to live is Christ and to die is gain" sort of thing. It's like this: if you're saved, you can just die and go to heaven, right? Good for you, but only you. The whole "to live is Christ" concept simply means you're being like Christ. You're giving up on your life and your happiness to give to others what they could never discover on their own.

This song is very well written, and I just love the background music. In a lot of raps the background music is so ridiculously boring that you couldn't possibly listen to the song without the words. That, I think, is a failure of the genre. Some artists are better than others about the background, but I think too much these days gets put out there without being artistic enough. And then there are those that just rip off some classical piece. Lame. Honestly, rap is in the electronica family, it can afford to be more original. There are some artists out there that understand this, but there are also a lot that don't. I dunno, popular music is going through a really bad period right now, and I feel that a lot of genres are being churned out while being only slightly more distinctive than pop. Country music is the biggest victim of this. Rap sort of evades this, but not entirely.

Gah, I need to post the link before I go all ranty.

To Live is Christ:

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Write Club - Writing Characters

Hey y'all!

Now, as I was writing my The Princess and the Frog review, I really wanted to write an exercise on what makes a good villain. However, that would be skipping a step: what makes a good character in the first place?

The first thing to remember is, even though we're dealing in the realm of fiction, the characters must be real. You can fake the setting, fake the science, and even fake natural abilities, but you cannot fake a soul -- a person's mind, will, and emotions. These are what a reader relates to, what ties an audience to your story. People hate fake characters who act unnaturally or make weird contradictory decisions. You must craft interesting, realistic people, so that no matter what weird nonsense your environment brings to them, your readers are on board.

So, first let's do the easy part. Character building! This is what makes your story work: characters. If you have boring or otherwise flawed ones, or just forget about them alltogether for the sake of your plot or your philosophical rantings, then that's bad. Fleshing out these characters and treating them as real people lend an extra dimension to your work that allows you to create a better work of fiction.

How do you create a character? There's really no concrete way of doing it. Mostly it falls under how you are inspired. Let's start off with looks.

So you're walking around one day, doing something (I personally find being at work surprisingly inspiring) and you get this image of a person in your head. This person is not a person that exists already, but is someone who intruigues you as a writer and inspires you to start typing away at the computer. What does this person look like? Skinny? Big? Dark-skinned? Light-skinned? That one shade of biracial that looks like so many ethnicities you can't guess which one it really is? Are there any distinguishing flaws that make this person unique? Long arms? Ugly nose?

There's a lot to consider in the looks department, and it's a good lead off into personality. Usually being inspired for looks only happens with your main characters, those you want to base your story on. Trouble is, you're not always going to have inspiration come so easily, and there's going to be times when you need to just quickly write up a character for your plot. That brings us to the second starting point: purpose.
For example, your lead female character has to go to a cafe and meet with a friend so that you can set her up to meet your lead male. So in this case the inspiring factor is the purpose of the character to your plot. You come up with these characters when you want to get something done. Like, you want your lead to be more guided, so you create a wise character. Or if you want people to sympathize with your main group, you create some redshirts.

In the case of the lead female going to the cafe, you have to arrange it so that she has the desire and/or obligation to meet with this character. Is this someone she works with or just knows? Is it a guy or a girl? Is this meeting for some important reason, just hanging out, or plain coincidence? Does the lead really want to meet with them? By determining how you want to answer these questions, you determine how this side character is fleshed out. It can be a coworker that they always gossip with, or maybe a creepy guy trying to sell them tupperware. Whatever best serves your purpose.

Purpose also exists for your lead character, but since the lead character's purpose is to carry out the story, side characters generally require more thought when it comes to the topic of purpose.

The next thing that can inspire you is environment. Say you're reading a book or watching TV, and you see there a place you really want to write about: maybe the desert, the rainforest, a specific city, etc. Or maybe you've imagined in your head a new fantasy or science fiction world that doesn't follow natural physics or politics. Either way, at some point you're going to have to ask yourself what kind of people live there and how exactly they live. Nobody in the desert grows cranberries, and nobody in Ireland uses chopsticks, so reality is the biggest checkpoint here, even in a fake world. Let's say your world has flying cars. In this world, nobody would string out their laundry to dry, and someone would invent rooftop or flying gas stations. These are just natural results of having flying cars, and you have to treat each environmental aspect keeping the environmental potential in mind.

So how do these affect characters? There's plenty of difference between someone from a city and someone from a farm, so you must realize the natural results of city living or country living, or Bangkok living or Ireland living. Someone from the city would be more accustomed to regular shopping, for example. Someone in a city of flying cars would be more impatient and want to get to a destination faster than someone who lives in 1883 and only travels in carriages. One of my managers at work grew up on a farm and became very accustomed to animals, and she even owned a pair of killer ferrets that actually killed a guy that broke into her house (I am so not making that up).

Mostly this comes into play when you're trying to create background characters, like when your lead is jumping into a new environment. However, don't underestimate the need for this in a main character. Too many people forget that the lead too is a person from a given environment, making him more able or less able to handle new things and new people. This kind of writing flaw easily results in a generic, boring lead that is pretty much a carbon copy of the author in question. In the realm of fanfiction, we call such a character a Mary-Sue.

Next is personality - how a character thinks, feels, believes, and reacts according to new situations. Now, while environment is a big factor in a person's personality, the spirit within a person is greater still. If you don't believe me, look at siblings. They grew up in the same environment, but are they the same? No. So is this person domineering? Reclusive? Optimistic? Self-pitying? An exercise freak? Really, this category is the most obvious, fluid, and easy to screw up of all the determining factors. It's obvious because everyone knows that your character is going to have to have a personality, it's fluid because personality can go in any direction, and it's easy to screw up for any number of reasons. I'll get more into that later. Being inspired by a certain personality is also something that happens for the more important characters.

And then there's overall tone. This is a harder starting point, as it refers to your book rather than the character itself. So, you're staring at your computer because you want to write a book that gives off a certain aura or tells certain themes. Think of the movie Chicago. The best way to describe the overall tone is sarcastic and tragic -- it's a story of the supposedly corrupted justice system told in extravagant broadway style. If you were the author settling down to write a story like this, you would have to take the premise and tone to create relevant characters. In Chicago's case, relevant characters are people like Roxy, the lead character who would do anything, even murder, to get famous. Since the tone of this movie is very dark and ironic, they obviously have to make it so that the bad guy, namely Roxy, wins her murder case even though she is guilty, while the innocent Polish girl is condemned to death. Therefore one must make Roxy to be a determined, selfish starlet, and the Polish girl must be innocent, kind, and Catholic.

Think about this for your story. Are you trying to write a happy book? Are you trying to create a book with a sense of bitter victory? A sense of horror? If so, you must pick characters that will accentuate the emotions you want to create in the fiction. For example, you can't put a jolly, singing baker into Chicago. That would just not work or have any relevance to the plot.

Going by tone is a very difficult way to start your story, particularly for newer authors. Unless you have the overall plot fleshed out very well, it's generally better to start with a character and let that character decide the tone, not the other way around. If you can do it and create a good fiction, that's good and well. Just start wherever inspiration comes and work from there.

Lastly, you have employment. While this is relevant for all characters, you'll probably think of it more when it comes to side characters who are more defined by their jobs. Let's say your main character comes to a bakery. If the baker in charge is relevant to the plot, then you have to think of how being a baker affects that person. Maybe they're more picky about the quality of grains that they eat, or maybe they always tells stories about making the perfect torte. You must consider not only how that job changes a person, but why that person would want to take that job in the first place.

Let's look a character who was badly executed: Martha Jones from Doctor Who. Notedly, I did not like this character, and it's very easy to tell that the character's true flaws didn't so much come from actress Freema Agryeman, but from the writers. Let me explain.

Okay, so we are introduced to this character in the episode Smith and Jones, in which the space police (space rhinos with lasers) teleport Martha's hospital to the moon. Martha is in fact a doctor in training at her hospital, and the Doctor immediately notices her because she is the most intelligent and steady-minded of the hospital's occupants. Martha makes a great first impression in this episode, but summarily becomes a shallow rip-off of previous companion Rose.

What's particularly relevant to the failures of the Martha character is the fact that Dr. Who's writers never considered how being a doctor affected Martha. Now, being a doctor is not something you can just randomly do. It takes a lot of things: patience to get through the extra school, an ability to cope with potentially terrifying wounds, a desire to help people, and possibly an urge to make good money. None of these factors ever seemed to apply to Martha, other than some patience. She's easily disgusted, inspired more by adventure or the doctor himself rather than helping others, and she has no particular concern for money. In fact, the last shot we see of her is running around with husband Mickey and huge guns fighting off Sontarans. A doctor with huge guns? While not mutually exclusive, these two characteristics are awkward paired together, especially with a chick lacking in unnecessary machismo. She had cool hair though.

After the first episode I was really expecting her to become a really smart medical doctor because she becomes exposed to alien life and alien scientific advances, but the writer(s) forget all about that plot. It's as if she had never been a doctor at all. Other writer problems resulted in Martha being the worst companion on the show I've seen (I haven't seen that many of them, to be fair). I might get more into that later, but the lesson here is to remember that personalities determine jobs and jobs affect people.

And speaking of "PEOPLE", here's a handy acronym for ya:
Personality - a character's mind, will, and emotions. Their soul, essentially.
Environment - the natural and technological surroundings that affect a character.
Overall tone - the feelings that you want your book to give off.
Purpose - what your character is supposed to do for the sake of the plot.
Looks - the appearance of the character and how it affects them.
Employment - what a character chooses to do and how it affects them.

You can be inspired by any of these things, but the point is you'll have to decide all of them, subconciously if nothing else, if you want to create a good character. The best way to do this is to remember that your character is a real person. Treat them as if they are more or less rational people capable of choosing their circumstances on their own.

There are a lot of common problems that go along with noob writers. Don't feel too bad if you do these things, because no one starts off perfect, but at the same time learn from whatever you can. Let's name some problems.
Dull characters.
These are the absolute worst. Notedly, this problem is an indirect problem, meaning that you as the writer start off with someone in your head who interests you very much. There's no reason in the world a reader can't do the same, except that you for whatever reason have trouble making this character look as interesting as you picture them. Here's some good ways to spice up your characters.

- don't overdescribe them. I absolutely hate it when an author is forever describing their character. It's like they're trying to convince you that their character is interesting. When you introduce them, describe their looks, but don't feel the need to redescribe them every chance you get. This applies to personality traits too. In one book I read, the author kept on describing how one chick, Val, was tough. He did it at every mention of her, without even bothering to refer to any of her other personality traits. That book was a dull pile of sludge, and tough chicks are very stereotypical in the first place.

- give them interesting dialogue. Let them talk like people. If you have to, react to a situation the way you normally would, then think about how the character does. Like if you would go "that's interesting" because someone is talking about boring stuff, what would your character do? If they're more open about their opinions, they might go "you're boring" or change the subject, or even walk away. Just let them do things that are natural. Don't feel like you have to make them sound extra intelligent or clever at the risk of being dull.

A very common error is the contradictory character. I hate them so much. Okay, so if your character is a real person, they are going to do things that you might not agree with. Commonly you'll want your character to do something, but you'll realize that your character would never do that. Like say, if your character is a bona fide cosmopolitan city girl, she'll likely have a huge problem with going to the poorer parts of China. The poorer parts of China, while awesome in my eyes, are annoying and frightening to a girl who would be scared even to go to Iowa.

Gah. I seriously hope that people from New York City aren't as narrow-minded and culturally stunted as Hollywood makes them look these days. Honestly, in the movie Have You Heard about the Hendersons? it makes the two leads look just about as ignorant and self-superior as a coddled teenager. The movie is about this NYC couple that goes out into a midwestern state because they witnessed a murder. They end up staying with the sherriff, and as they pick up the sherriff's wife after she buys a rifle, the yankee woman exclaims, "oh my God, it's Sarah Palin!"

One, Sarah Palin is by no means scary. Two, owning a rifle is not scary. Getting raped because you didn't have a rifle is. I really need to meet some NYC folk just so I can get that retarded stereotype out of my head. I've met upstate New Yorkers, and they're pretty cool. I friggin' hate Hollywood.

Okay, okay, there's a point to all of this. Basically I'm saying that steer very clear from Hollywood stereotypes. Hollywood thinks that all yankees are glitzy and self-righteous, all people outside of cities are hicks, and all Americans are ignorant unless they're rebelling against something, most likely the law (which in turn is always incompetent). Stereotypes limit your story and cause the audience to disconnect with your story. It's really best for your story to disregard all stereotypes, unless some of your characters happen to follow them. Don't make any of your characters generic. Let the readers see their hearts and motivations, then even if they seem close to a stereotype, your audience will never notice. No one in real life is a stereotype, so don't force fake ones into them either.

Oh, I almost missed the point I was trying to make in the first place. If your character needs to do something out of character, give them a legitimate reason. Don't just have them go, "I hate the country" and then pack up and move to Leadville, Colorado. Perhaps you can make it so a family member is dying, and they need to go, or perhaps the company they work for wants to scout out some land for a business. Maybe your character gets a new boyfriend who wants to drag her out of the city to go ride horses or somesuch. Or maybe your character goes through a deep experience that just plain changes her heart. Make it legitmate, y'all.

Another character I sometimes have a problem with is the lead character that doesn't have an arc. An arc is change - at the beginning of the story the character is one way, and at the end they are another because of all the changes they've gone through. This isn't always a problem, particularly for side characters, but it's pretty much a requirement for the characters you want your reader to get to know. There was this one fantasy book I tried to read, but it was so terrible that I couldn't finish. The male lead was a self-righteous, arrogant bastard, so much so that I couldn't get past the first chapter. I skipped to the end just for the heck of it, and he was still arrogant and self-centered. It really was a piece of trash. Oh, and that brings me to another point: don't make characters that your readers hate. Love to hate is one thing, but straight out hate is too much.

The most noobish thing a writer can do is make all of the characters the same. It happens so dang often...or maybe I just read too much fanfiction and not enough published work. It's very uncreative for each character to have the same kind of thinking that the others do. Two people who encounter the same pile of facts can very well come to two different conclusions. Similar, perhaps. Maybe both of them can be true conclusions, just different pieces of the truth. Or maybe they both come up with crap. The point is, people each operate under different sets of rules from others. You can't have everyone be smarmy, self-righteous spies. You can't have all of them ignoring authority. You can't have all of them accepting a given piece of news. You can't expect everyone to be as accepting as you to the same thing.

The two easiest similarities to fall into are speech and reaction. I hate it to death when everybody talks the same. For some reason when characters talk the same they sound extra smarmy, as if the writer is trying to make them sound all clever. Bah. That ain't gonna work on nobody. And make an extra effort to create characters who have different beliefs than you. Bad writers tend to make it so that only the bad guys disagree with their individual beliefs, and this is the first sign of noobish, propaganda writing.

One mistake is pretty forgivable, as long as you go back and edit. That's losing track of your characters in the plot. It's like, you want the plot to get forward, but you just get so impatient that you forget to properly develop your characters' reactions to what's going on. Sure, maybe you have an interesting plot thing, like a car chase on the edge of the grand canyon, but that's not why the audience gets excited. They get excited because they are in touch with the characters that are driving around and trying not to fall down America's most famous gulch. A car chase there is just a stunt if they don't care about the characters.

The last mistake I'm going to get into today is judgementalism. Oftentimes the writer has a group that they very much hate, and they're writing their book just to show why all the readers should hate that person/group/organization too. For example, a lot of people today hate those that are rich, never once suspecting that they are indeed being bigots. Maybe some rich guys are corrupt, but that's no reason to think that all of them are. The guy who runs Chick-fil-A, for example, is a nice guy who really wants to make a family-oriented restaurant. He sent me his autographed biography. Chick-fil-A recently helped with a local promotion for Stop Child They're always doing stuff like that.

A lot of the time people will write about how much Christians suck, though as one I am able to say that what they think Christianity is does not describe reality. They like to make mockery of the church for whatever reasons of their own, but they have no understanding of it, nor of good Christians or how much the faith has changed the world. The Western world owes much of itself to this belief system. Look, guys, if you have a question about Christianity, ask a real Christian. Ask me if you like. Don't just accept the opinions of people who are anti-Christian, or those that simply call themselves Christian but are really just super-religious kooks. Trust me, you know the difference between a real Christian and a kook.

Heck, you can even find good people in evil groups. There was this one Nazi in China trying to protect the Chinese civillians from Japanese occupiers, and he had no clue that Germany was then oppressing the Jews in an equally horrifying fashion. You can read about it in the book The Good Man of Nanking, but I don't recommend it. That book is so darn depressing. It's just the story of rape, murder, and theft without let up, and it will leave you feeling way unclean.

That's another thing I don't get. Apparently a lot of people these days don't like Jews. There's this guy, Alan Dershiwitz, who wrote The Case for Israel, and he was saying that there's a lot of Anti-Semitism going on in colleges and universities today. Look at the Palestinian-Israel conflict. Apparently all these "educated" people are saying that Israel is horrible, but it's really difficult to say this when they don't torture people, they don't freak out if someone says something dumb about Judaism, and they don't commit terrorism. The Palestinians, on the other hand, frequently attempt suicide bombings. They even rape women and then tell them that they only way to regain their family honor is to go be "martyrs".

They'll send people with aids and other diseases too, so that if a fragment of their bone gets a Jew, that person will be sick. They also stack the statistics of how many "civilians" die at Israeli hands by not allowing injured people to go to Israeli hospitals (who help anyone who comes in), and counting "martyrs" and victims of their own bomb mishaps as Israeli kills. Heck, an Arabic sheik actually made friends with Hitler, hoping to extend the "final solution" down to the Middle East if the Nazis won the war.

All of this is just to say that every person in the world is an individual. They decide whether or not they will be honorable or evil. Do not throw everyone in a pot and say they're all jerks. And even if they are evil, portray them with depth. Don't just take your own unresearched bigotry and make a public hate out of it. Not only does it damage your story and make it two dimensional, it also encourages people not to think about what they believe. Fiction is not merely the result of public notions, it's also the cause of it. Please be careful what you write, and do research before you call anybody out.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Music You've Probably Never Heard Before -- DJ Micro

Hey y'all. It's time for some music you've probably never heard of! This week I'll be talking about a dj whose music for some reason reminds me of Christmas. No, he doesn't do Christmas music (that I know of), but listening to one album in particular always brings up images for me of walking through the light rain with my mom's Christmas present heading home as fast as I could. A guy tried to give me a ride, but I didn't know him.

The artist I'm talking about is DJ Micro. I love his work, and my favorite album of his is My Frequency 001, the aforementioned "Christmas" album. It has several tracks on it that I like, in particular the first four. It starts off strong with Born to Synthesize, a very thematic piece that's intense but not overly hardcore. It's a perfect description of a dj. Listen to it and you will see:

Track two is my favorite of the album, Sun is Coming Out [Intrance Remix]. This is a very motivating piece that is so much fun and energizes you with a bright cheer. I absolutely love it. I can't find the album mix, but here's the mix I could find:

Revolution [Alphazone Remix] is a pumping piece that might scare people off at first. It's hard, intense, but overall a great track. To me it brings back memories of having such a sore throat that I could barely talk around Thanksgiving. Yeah, that was a crazy year. Staying up late plus drinking lots of dark soda will murder your voice, just fyi. The song however, is very intense, and about two and a half minutes in the song really starts kicking in and going nuts. This track is totally party.

Track 4, Screaming Inside (Yatari Vocal Mix) I didn't actually record on my computer. I just felt like it was a bit too weird lyricwise. This song actually has lyrics, and those of you who aren't easily weirded out by the overly poetic techno lyrics will still like it -- I can be weird about that sort of thing. Still, its a very melodius tune and is very relaxing. That's very necessary after the energy of the first four tracks. And it must creep other people out too, 'cause it's not on youtube.

Next is Awakening, a still relaxing song that doesn't quite entrance as well as the previous track. It's nice, energetic, but it feels pretty standard. Don't you think so?

Electro Buzz is back on track with a pulsing beat that really brings to mind adventures and Christmas and cold wind. Or maybe I'm just nuts. I just love the beat.

Blind Visions [Arcadia Club Mix] isn't as good, but it's okay. It's still fitting in with the odd feeling of the album, it just doesn't stand out as well. It's still a lot of fun, though.

Fury is a song I don't like. It's not interesting, sort of annoying, and goes on for seven and a half minutes. It just doesn't have the uniqueness or fun of the majority of the tracks on this cd.

Broken [Pitch and Sulfer's "Back in Time" Remix] is like track 4 in the sense it has silly techno lyrics. In this case they didn't creep me out. It's a good track, but the title is a bit extensive for a track that's not the best ever. It's good and chill, but not great.

I've heard more than one remix of Intensify, so I wasn't really into this when I first heard it. I think I like this mix better, but I still find the song itself to be really corny. It's wonky, so it's a song that some people will really like and others will really dislike. See what you think:

I'm Alone [Ronski Speed Mix] I was immediately drawn to, because Ronski songs are really meditative. The trouble is, this particular song is a little too mellow and drawn out for being at the end of this album. Listening to the whole album and then coming to this song leaves the listener with a sense of exhaustion.

Now, I'd heard another version of Inside of Me, but this one is the Original Vocal Mix. This song was the reason I bought this cd in the first place, because I'd heard the more popular version of this song on internet radio. This version, however, was less pop, and it took me a bit to get used to the difference. First of all, it has verses. For this album it really does need more words, and it really brings together the real meaning behind the song. It's more adventurous and strong a mix than the bubblegum version I heard first, and it's not as pop-accessible. This is the case where I really learned to get deeper into electronic music and mature as a listener -- good bye pop songs! Unfortunately, I can't find this mix on youtube. Yeah. Not so pop-accessible.

So I like this album, but I have to be very honest. It starts off great, but towards the middle it gets bogged down and tiresome because there isn't as enough variety in the middle tracks. It really doesn't recover until the very last track, making this album one more for middle to hard electronic listeners. I'll continue to listen to this as I wrap Christmas presents, but it's not something I can recommend for everyone.

But heck, that ain't the only stuff that Dj Micro has done. Why don't I dig up some stuff for you on youtube for those of you less accustomed to harder or more electronic pieces?

Inside of Me (Radio Edit) -
The World Around me -
Stargazer -
I'll Fly with You (with Gigi D'Agostino) -
Breathe in You (Deep Amazing Vocals) -
DJ Micro (with Mark Aurel) The Sun Dominator Remix -

Overall, DJ Micro is not for those who aren't into techno or hard trance. But hopefully it will expose you to new insights on how the hard trance world works.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Princess and the Frog Review

Hey y'all! Time for another review.

So I finally got around to watching the new princess movie, The Princess and The Frog. I like this movie, but I'm a bit sad for it's sake that it wasn't able to come out fifteen years ago, around the time when Beauty and the Beast and The Little Mermaid were the Disney princess movies of the day. Those two were the true epics of the Disney princess series, expertly telling stories we've already heard in fresh and fun ways. Modern times have hit Hollywood hard, and most movies today that haven't come out of Pixar suck. Good movies seem to be few and far between, so I was automatically dubious for this new movie. I call this the "let's make it an epic but forget we're telling a story" syndrome.

Remember, movies are epic because they tell a story, not because the person wants them to be an epic. In fact, the surest way to make your movie stink is to think it's the awesomest thing ever before you actually make it. Humility makes you work harder and you get a better result.

Fortunately, The Princess and The Frog seems to have escaped a lot of the suckitude that clings to modern movie making. It's a return to the good ol' days of 2D animation, a true artform that I desperately hope is not forgotten in the future. So the first thing I'll be talking about is the looks of this movie - simply put, they're great. Disney has lovingly designed several interesting characters and settings, my favorite of which being the forty bajillion dresses they made for Charlotte and Tiana. Some lady at the company was having the time of her life designing all of these things. Every moment in the movie was a pleasure to look at. Quite frankly I liked it better than that Avatar nonsense, mostly due to the fact that I didn't get a headache after watching TPATF. It was made with love, not arrogance. See? Look how much money they saved by not wasting ten years on HD nonsense.

So the story of this movie is that young Tiana is a marvelous cook living in the poorer side of New Orleans with her parents, and it's her dream to make a restaurant that anybody can come in and enjoy. Her father dies of unknown causes (to the viewer, anyway) and Tiana is left to work as hard as she can to finally buy a building and get her dreams started. The coming of Maldonian prince Naveen is pretty much a non-issue to her, though her friend Charlotte, the daughter of a rich New Orleans business man, is head over heels for the guy without even having met him. Through trickery and mistaken identity, both the prince and Tiana end up as frogs and have to find their way to humanity.

Now, for the first part of this review, I won't get into spoilers. Suffice to say that the story was pretty good, though the execution could have gone far better. There was a lot of creativity put into certain things, particularly the little details. There were things like Charlotte's quirky mannerisms as a spoiled girl, villain Shadow Man's equally evil shadow, the fun and completely hilarious Duke, the fact that a firefly was in love with a star, and many other things. However, this film in many cases misses the big picture, which is too create another classic princess story so that Tiana can join the ranks of Aurora, Belle, Mulan, and the rest (is Mulan really a princess?). While this movie was fun, it just wasn't the epics or at least good tales of the past. Hence the modern movie suckitude thing.

Most of my problems in this movie weren't the dialogue, which was fun and southern, just like I like, but three main things: misuse/underdevelopment of characters, non-sticking songs, and the overhammering of the movie's themes. Oh wait, and there was also huge pacing issues.

Let's start with the most spoiler-free of these: the music. Now, I didn't have a problem with the songs in or anything in this movie, and they were very good in their own right. Trouble is, I won't remember them. Think about it. Each of the princess movies have at least one good song that really kicks with the audience. My theory is that the people like these songs because they have little to nothing to do with the plot.

What makes a classic song is not relevance, but the expression of a spirit or natural urge that lives within your audience. Either that or the sheer catchiness of the song. Catchiness is the reason why Snow White's known song is the song of the dwarves, with their "heigh ho! Heigh ho! It's off to work we go!" People who have never seen the movie have hummed that song to themselves at times. Going to another of the old ones, Sleeping Beauty's song was one of the least remembered ones, but still a good one - "Once Upon a Dream". This song was slightly plot-relevant, but in the end it was simply a song about knowing the man you love because you've dreamed about him all your life. It's beautiful on its own, and you don't have to know the movie to understand it.

From Cinderella, you have that song that goes "a dream is a wish your heart makes when you're fast asleep" and "bibitty bobitty boo". Songs were not as necessary in Cinderella as the story itself, but these songs caught on, one for its silly dream commentary and the other for its magical silliness. Beauty and the Beast had a similar couple of very popular songs (though all the songs were good) in its title song and Gaston's gloriously arrogant tune. The Little Mermaid too had a pair, one dramatic and on silly, in "Part of Your World" and "Under the Sea", with the added bonus of "Poor, Unfortunate Souls". Pocahontas had her "paint with all the colors of the wind" song, the title of which I'm not certain. Mulan, in my opinion, had the catchiest soundtrack of all these movies, and every song is a gem without intefering with the plot. They even seemlessly help it move along. Second place goes to the movie Aladdin.

So the trick is, the best way to make catchy songs is to not tie them too closely to the story, but let them be their own things that really resonate with the viewer's feelings and struggles or else be so fun you can't help but sing them to yourself. If you have to see a movie to understand the song, that's bad. Unfortunately, TPATF songs are like that. They have too much to do with the plot without the catchiness of a silly Disney song. The closest thing to an independent song is Shadow Man's "Friends on the Other Side", which had the potential to be good, but again this song is forced by poor story planning to tell the backstory of both Naveen and his servant. I really do like "Almost There", especially the cartoon segment that goes with it. It's a fun song sung very well.

And so, let's go into the more spoilerific issues. Specifically, the poor story planning. Most of these problems centered around Naveen's servant Lawrence, who is given easily the dumbest role in this movie. His motivations are never expressly given other than in Shadow Man's song, where we are told rather than shown the sufferings of the servant. Keep in mind that since Naveen is out of money because his parents cut him off for being so spoiled, Lawrence is the only one still watching out for the young prince. Naveen obviously trusts this guy, and this guy has to care for Naveen in some way, because why would you follow a broke dude all the way to a new country otherwise? Is he under orders by Naveen's parents to watch out for him? We are given not so much as a line of this guy's backstory, or the relationship between him and Naveen.

Now, for much of this movie Lawrence is pretending to be Naveen. Why? The Shadow Man claims that the servant was being pushed around his entire life and offers him the chance to become free of his servitude -- by making him a Naveen fake? Wouldn't the servant rather do what he wants to do than pretend to be someone else? This could possibly be believable, but the movie at no point sets up a specific grudge against or jealousy for Naveen. This guy seems like a normal, fairly generic servant, not someone capable of taking over someone's life and doing evil things.

Also, I find it weird that the servant would trust Shadow Man. He was the one reluctant to listen to anything Shadow Man had to say, and Naveen was the trusting one. But as they both try to get what they want from Shadow Man, and Naveen ends up turned to a frog. Now, if the Shadow Man was willing to trick the prince, why wouldn't the servant think to believe that his own magical "gift" was likewise a trap? The servant has already seen Shadow Man's corruption, so why would he trust him, especially since Shadow Man treats him with contempt before he takes the deal?

Also, if Lawrence works so hard, why is he fat? You'd think he'd be skinny. And why does he want to marry Charlotte? She's pretty high maintenance, and he does not need a high maintenance girl.

So yeah, this one character brought a lot of flaws to the movie all by himself. But let's talk about the things I like before I get on another of my rants. Tiana herself is a really great character, and I love how frogs creep her out. I also love how she's kind of crazy about making her own restaurant especially when nobody else sees what she sees. She's a great addition to the princesses. Another great aspect is how cooking totally takes her out of her situation. When she's in the midst of trying to get Mama Odie to turn them back human, she takes a moment to taste and critique gumbo despite all her worries. She seems pretty phobic of disgusting things, which makes sense with her foodservice notions. Tiana's mom is pretty awesome, but I wish we could see more of her.

Another interesting character was the Shadow Man himself. Wait, his name is Dr. Facilier? Eh, I'll just call him Shadow Man. Anyway, this is a really fun character who has a great gimmick of a living shadow. He thin, gangly, and totally trippy. In a scene that's sure to scare the children, he introduces himself and his magic in a perfectly evil way.

The trouble there is that he's a perfect villain -- and they don't let him be it. Let me explain. The thing that makes a villain so absolutely delightful is the fact that he triggers the fight-or-flight response in us. Facilier could do this very well, and had the potential to be the great monster that Ursula from The Little Mermaid was. The trouble is, one of the reasons a villain is scary is because of control; you're afraid that they can kill someone or ruin your life or make someone you love suffer. The trouble with Facilier is that he's not in control. He not only has to keep violent spirits at bay, but he has to make sure the servant keeps Charlotte occupied without telling her the truth, find Naveen so he can keep the trinket that allows the servant to pose as him going, stop Tiana from ruining everything, and hope that he doesn't die in the process.

Shadow Man has so many plates to keep spinning and yet he's almost never directly hassling the protagonists. He almost kills Charlotte's dad, kills Ray, and tempts Tiana. Other than that he's just pulling strings and trying not to get pwned by these "friends" of his on the other side. I found myself wishing he would do more.

The saddest thing is that Dr. Facilier is wonderfully crafted. They put details on him like disturbingly ratty hair, blue eyes, and wonderfully gangly movement, but they never really allow him to be the crazy evil bastard that we all want him to be. He barely even knows that Tiana exists until the end of the movie. If they made Shadow Man meet her at the beginning and made it so he had to find froggy Naveen instead of those plot-cheat shadows doing it for him, then this movie would be improved significantly. I will point out that Shadow Man was at her job at Duke's at the beginning, so he's probably seen her around and doesn't regard her as much. Heck, him being all condescending to her dreams at that point would have made a really good moment in the beginning and would really establish a more specific hatred between the two characters.

That's the thing. I feel like a lot of the characters were misused in one way or another. Louie the alligator is almost never useful, and the writers are always thinking of convenient ways to keep him from being a benefit. Not only do they make it so that he can't find Mama Odie, but he gets too distracted by pine burrs to save anyone from the bayou bumpkins, and spends much of the rest of the movie playing in a band. He never is in the same scene with Dr. Facilier, nor does he even appear in the final confrontation. Ray is so busy stealing the scene that Louie doesn't get a chance to do anything of importance.

I never liked Ray. I mean, it was sort of creative that he would be in love with a star, but it's also creepy and sad. How sad is it that he's in love with something that's probably Jupiter and he could never possibly be with in his life? There were other characters, particularly froggy Tiana and Shadow Man, who needed the time spent on this character. They should have cut him out of the movie, or left him as just a colorful bayou character. And it was sick when he became a star next to Evangeline. That was gimmicky and a disrespect to the movie as a whole. Thing is, this is a princess movie. The movie spends too much time focused on other characters, and cutting the irrellevant Ray from the movie would give us more time to get to know the more important characters, like Tiana and Naveen.

Naveen in particular needed some attention. All we know about him is that he's lazy and likes music. How about a little more, like a secret hobby that somehow becomes important? Maybe he whittles or designs clothes or works on cars or something. He doesn't seem to have the depth of character that a lot of the princes have, and we don't get a chance to see what really makes him tick. He's pretty much a happy-go-lucky caricature. I'd have liked to see him angry or upset, just to provide his character more dimension.

I liked this movie, but one of the things that got on my nerves was the pacing. Now, as for the early part that shows young Tiana was paced well, but once she gets older, the movie continually gets more and more hyper. Tiana managing her way through traffic to work, shuffling dish after dish impossibly well, Charlotte coming in with her endless prattle, Prince Naveen coming in and doing his dancing and just gets more hyper from there. This isn't too bad for a while, but after a time it's kind of annoying. It doesn't feel like the movie takes appropriate times to settle down when it needs to.

There are times when nothing would beat a good dialogue, but the writers put the characters through some sort of hyperactive thing. Like when the frogs have just escaped the party, and Tiana and Naveen are telling each other the truth (Naveen has no money and Tiana is not a princess) as they float over the bayou with the balloons. Instead of having a good dialogue, the two have to say bits of the truth as they dodge falls, a bird, and crocodiles. I'm especially insulted that they made the event that brought Naveen and Tiana together was a chase from bayou bushfolk. One, just because people live in the country doesn't mean they're ignorant, and two, it doesn't really seem to be enough to make Tiana start falling for Naveen. Three, why is the alligator, the most intimidating of the bunch, steered away from actually helping aid the escape? Four, would pine burrs really stick in an aligator's hide?

And yes, we have a movie breaking plot hole. Isn't it weird that nobody in New Orleans is worried about Tiana's disappearance? Wouldn't her mom notice that's she's not around? The first thing she would do is go on over to Charlotte's, as that would be the last place anyone would have seen Tiana. Then Charlotte would notice that her friend is missing and send off search parties for her, promising a reward to whoever did. Charlotte has already shown that she considers Tiana a friend, first by invading her work at Duke's and then by leaving "the prince" in favor of helping Tiana get a dress to wear instead of the one ruined by the crash into the pastry table. I highly doubt she would plan a wedding without thinking at some point of Tiana, either to gossip or to have Tiana be a bridesmaid. For that matter, Tiana made a mess of her room and left her dress on the floor as she turned into a frog, so wouldn't it seem weird to Charlotte that her room is this way? Wouldn't she guess that something horrible happened to Tiana? Isn't at least Duke mad that she didn't show up for work?

Man, Duke was so dang funny. I loved that guy, and we only get to see him for two seconds. Not fair.

Another character who suffered from misuse was Mama Odie herself. Now, I don't like how this character portrays magic as a good or viable thing, but as a guiding character she is important to the plot. She comes in one scene and then disappears basically, and yet her absense is missed. Why would Tiana and Naveen get married and let her officiate if she wasn't a relevant, kind guide? The movie doesn't take the time to emphasize this side of Mama Odie, and other than her song, we don't know much about her. She feels underused.

Now, I'd like to take the time to say that screen time does not equal quality or getting to know a character. A character can be on screen for most of the movie and yet we know nothing about their mind and they wander as a generic person that does things only based on vague hollywood morality, like the leading character in Avatar. I compare Mama Odie to the Oracle in the Matrix, because her role should have been a lot like the Oracle's. See, the Oracle appears only in one scene, but because she is properly built up through the dialogue and her words have great relevance to the Matrix's plot, she doesn't feel underused. She did what she needed to do, and did it well. While I do think that Mama Odie should have been given more time to show guidance and kindness, with proper build up she would need only a little more. And she's really fun too.

What do I mean by build up? It can mean anything -- like for a powerful character, you have other characters talk dramatically of this power. Perhaps they're afraid or impressed. Or you can have a scene where your already introduced characters are doing something, and this newcomer can show up and automatically change the mood, giving the audience a lasting impression of who this person is. A more complex example comes right from Aladdin. So Aladdin comes in as Prince Ali Ababwa (sorry for the spelling), with his magnificent parade and bold song by the Genie. We have the sultan rushing around to let him in, and Jafar frantically trying to keep him out, when finally the "prince" comes in, expecting a good welcome. Then princess Jasmine comes in, angry that she's being treated like a prize. This tells us in one instant, without even mentioning Jasmine's name, what sort of person she is. She's efficiently portrayed, only on screen for a minute as this is developed.

The song, "When I'm human" could really have been cut from the movie. It's not a bad song, but it's just totally unnecessary. We already know Tiana wants a restaurant, we already know that Naveen is lackadaisical, and we already gather that Louie wants to hang out with humans. So why have the song when it introduces nothing new? You could replace it with a song where Louie sings about the bayou and what sort of people that live there, with a significant portion dedicated to the stories surrounding Mama Odie. She could use some buildup.

You know, if Charlotte hasn't seen her fiance since they were engaged because the servant couldn't pose as Naveen, wouldn't she be mad? And how does Tiana recognise Naveen as a human when she sees him at the Mardi Gras parade? She only saw him once as a human and she didn't even know it was him. For all she knows, Charlotte could be marrying some other dude she knows nothing about. Even more so, how does Raymond know that this is Naveen? He's never seen human Naveen and he didn't even have a chance to look at newspapers or something, yet his dialogue shows that he clearly knows that this is the prince.

Why is the servant being arrested at the end? How do they intend to prove in court that he was imitating a taller, skinnier, black man when he's a rotund, balding white guy?

Wow, this movie has a more or less onscreen death. That's gotta be a Disney first. Oh, and look, Ray turns into a star. How pointlessly cheesy. This I feel is a bad transition from the failed attempt at breaking the spell to Tiana's and Naveen's wedding. People like to say that Lord of the Rings had too many endings, but this movie I feel is the opposite. It goes too quickly from one thing to the next, without really dwelling on it. I mean, there should be a moment where they reflect on spending the rest of their lives being frogs, and Tiana has to tell her mother the truth of what happened. Naveen should at least try to tell his parents what's going on.

Honestly, I would have loved it if they gave his parents and Tiana's mom a bigger role. They should have a couple of scenes where they get to know each other. Naveen's parents could be there for Mardi Gras, and they meet Tiana's mom as she's looking for her daughter. That would be cool.

I have a better scene in mind for the transition to the frog wedding. Tiana should be all like "I guess my dream is over..." and then Naveen says something like "But we're still together and that's what counts" and he pulls out his makeshift ring, something that was totally cute. Then they go to Mama Odie and ask her to officiate or something, and Mama tells them how proud she is that they learned to look for what they needed and not what they wanted.

Also, they needed to dwell a little longer on the scene where Tiana gets her lilypad dress. That dress is awesome, and because of its magical nature it deserves more than three seconds of screentime. They should at least dance or something in the swampwater before it cuts to their human wedding. Why can't she wear that at the human wedding instead of that boring rope thingy? They could say that Charlotte had it made for her or something.

When Mama Odie says "by the powers vested in me", what powers is she talking about, and who gave them to her?

Also, the movie never lets go of its themes. It is almost always talking about dreams and people's desires without taking a break to just dwell in the reality of the world. It's constantly pushing the themes of the movie in your face about working hard and remembering what's important. That's fine, but it gets way overdone.

Since this is a children's movie, I'll ask another question for its ratings: would I let any hypothetical children of mine watch this? Sadly, no. I like this movie, but I don't like how it portrays voodoo magic. Evil magic appears in the other princess movies, but those are very generic magics. However, if you go to New Orleans you will encounter voodoo in some way. People like to malign the spiritual, but it's indefinitely more important than most people realize and has a greater affect on your life than you know. On this note, I do like the part where Shadow Man is consumed by his own magic. Still, I'm not going to let any hypothetical child watch this movie until they have a significant understanding of logic and spirituality.

Okay, so I say all this, but really it doesn't mean that I didn't enjoy this movie. It was cute and fun. I like to nitpick, but as concerns this movie, my nitpickery is not with anger as it has been with some of today's movies. I simply love nitpickery for its own sake. The plot in this movie had problems, but it didn't suck. And that makes all the difference. If I was stuck on a plane for fifteen hours, I wouldn't mind this movie at all. I couldn't watch it over and over again like I can Rab ne Bana di Jodi, but it didn't make me want to shoot myself like Caddyshack. This story is fun. A lot of people will tell me to just shut off my brain and enjoy a movie, and yet in most cases the movie is simply too stupid or plot-holed to be enjoyable -- like Transformers or Iron Man. Only in this movie have I so far been able to validate their comment. I can enjoy this movie despite everything I say about it, because it's a princess movie that's fun and with characters that are based in reality and interesting.

Here's some favorite moments from The Princess and the Frog:

- "Dance with me, fat man!"

I just love this moment, where early on Naveen insists that his servant dance with him on the street. There's something so lighthearted and fun about it that just makes me laugh.

- "When a woman says later, she really means never."

Charlotte tells this to a suitor, and I had to laugh because most of the time this statement is true.

- Tiana's temptation.

Honestly, I can say that this was my favorite scene in the movie. I love how Shadow Man is just placing the restaurant in Tiana's hands for the trinket, and Tiana's resistance. It's one of the few times when Shadow Man is being a real villain and Tiana is directly resisting her own desires for what she knows is right.

- Tiana with a hammer.

This part near the end cracks me up. Tiana's eagerly swinging a hammer as she has just bought the building for her restaurant, and the look on her face is just so crazy that I had to laugh. Honestly, I really like Tiana as a character. She's really cool, and a great addition to the others. And she doesn't annoy me like Belle does. Jasmine does a little too. I dunno, Beast and Aladdin do a good job of getting them to chill out.

Summary: Fun characters lovingly made, but with huge ridiculous plot holes. I'll give it a 6.5 out of ten.

There is a problem with this rating though. Thing is, I've seen all the other princess movies as a child, so they have nostalgia attached to them, so they get a ratings boost from that alone, or so you'll say. Okay then. I'll go back and review them as an adult. It'll take me a while, and I'll post other blogs while I'm going along, but yeah, fair's fair. That, and I don't have all the Disney movies. We'll see how it goes. I will give The Princess and the Frog this notation, though: it's the most beautiful princess movie to date.

Let's see what I can remember:
Snow White
Sleeping Beauty
Beauty and the Beast
The Little Mermaid

I think I shall do Mulan next.

Notedly, I'm still including Aladdin even though the princess is not the focus of the movie, and Mulan's in too, even though Mulan technically isn't a princess. I like to think she counts though.