Monday, December 19, 2011

What's up.

Hey y'all.  I feel really meh at the moment, as I have not won the Blizzard fanfiction writing contest.   Nor got a honorable mention.  Well, I think this was due to my posting the story on, which, after checking the rules, I noticed was not proper.  I think someone tried to warn me, but my pm system on that site shut down.  Crap.  Or else they just didn't like my story.

I think my story, Shadow Falls, was very good.  I'm not too disappointed I lost, as I can construct my sentences somewhat weirdly.  Also, the judges for Blizzard tend to like mildly depressing war stories, not cheerful one shots such as what I wrote.  I wrote a story about a Judicator meeting a little hick girl on the Terran planet Moria, and quite frankly I think it's nice.  I'm not the judge, though, and I can live with this.  I just wish I hadn't posted it, that way I'd know whether I lost by mistake or by flawed writing.

That's life.  Nothing's posted from my short story contest entries, so I'll hold up hope for that.  The stakes and the prizes are higher.  I'm confident in my chances, and I know I'm a good writer.  We'll see what happens with that.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Write Club: Types of Writers

Hey y'all.  It's about dang time I updated this blog.  I usually only do when I get ranty, and now I'm ranty again.  I promise I will get to reviewing the MM10 soundtrack at some point in the future, but for now, it's writers.

Okay.  First of all I would like to point out that everyone is a potential writer.  Not "writer" in a narrow sense.  Every one of us can use writing in accordance with our regular and preferred occupations.  There are three general types of writers: Fiction writers, Non-fiction writers, and Non-writers.  Yes, Non-writers are a type of writer.  Deal with it.

What these basically mean to say is that it takes a special sort of person to be the first two categories, whereas all writers start out as Non-writers.  First of all, what makes a fiction writer so special is their ability to create plot.  Create plot, you ask?  This basically means that all natural fiction writers are thinkers.  They think of stories quite naturally, forming the ideas in their heads based on their personalities and experiences.  Even if they are not actively writing at the moment, their brains are already churning with story and will proceed to do so until the fiction writer dies.

The downfall of a fiction writers is that while they are brilliant with ideas, many times they are completely incapable of showing these ideas properly through their language.  We've all seen it in school or online.  We find these people, and they are so dang excited about their fun story.  Then you get to what they actually posted, and it sucks.   Those used to interpreting words, like a teacher, can clearly see that their main idea is good.  Their execution sucks, however, until they learn that writing involves learning the english (or whatever) language.  Words are tools, and they have to learn to use them.

Quick Hint: to speed up your learning, try to write as you would speak.  Normally people are more interested in your talking than your writing, so try to figure out why.

As you may guess, non-fiction writers are the opposite.  They suck at plot, but they can rock out words.  They know how to present a point in a more clear, simple, or interesting metaphor than fictionists.  Usually the non-fiction writer is primarily concerned with getting across a point, more so than the fiction writer (who is trying to get across a story or an emotion).  Thus the non-fiction writer is already better geared to present what they have in a coherent manner.

Quick Hint: to learn to create plot, write out the true story of something that happened in your life.  Not something very detailed, but just something simple like how you got your first pet or how a day at your work goes.  Write it out exactly as it happened, and then start thinking up things to spice it up.  What's something that could have happened to interfere with getting your pet?  What kind of weird customer/client could you have had?

Finally, the non-writer.  These people are not geared towards conveying ideas or emotion, and their primary skills generally concern something either people or physical objects.  There is nothing wrong with this.  If everybody could write, then hardly anyone would buy books.  I'm sure there's someone out there just as afraid of writing as I am of running a restaurant.  They get scared at the very notion of having to put ideas on paper.

This fear is bad.   Like General Patton would always say, never take council of your fears.  Granted, none of these people will be bestselling writers, but at the same time they shouldn't fear putting words to their thoughts.

Quick Hint: Write.  Just write.  Write whatever you're thinking right at this moment, no matter what it is or how coherent it is.  Seriously, it's so fun.  Pick whatever thing you've been thinking about today and just start. Even if your thoughts get off track, write that down too.  It doesn't matter if you're going on about dogs and then you suddenly comment about how much you love collard greens.  Just write.  Don't try to edit yourself, just get the ideas out there.

So these categories are the general categories.  Allow me to expand on other types of writers that are more specific.  Starting with-

The Worldbuilder:  This writer is one that has a natural talent for thinking about a universe.  By "universe", I mean the world in which a story takes place.  This is especially important in fantasy or science fiction, where normal scientific rules can be broken, and yet have to be replaced by new rules that cannot be.  Every story, no matter how fantastic or realistic it is, has its own set of rules about how far science is allowed to go, what cultures or peoples exist in it, or what the landscape/housings look like.

The Worldbuilder is naturally inclined to think of these things, and often will spend a good amount of time just thinking about all sorts of little details, like wild creatures, natural landmarks, and an imaginary government.  These are the most daydreamy of all writers, though all fiction writers must build their world, and non-fiction writers must present the world they wish to describe.  World building shows up in all writing in one way or another, but the Worldbuilder is naturally inclined to do so.  I am this type of writer, and the very fact that I'm writing all of this out right now shows that I think too much about the world of writing.  Worldbuilders in general want to know how things work, and crave details about how movies are made and edited.

Worldbuilders -- fantasy and sci fi are your strengths.  You don't like to play by anybody's rules.  While this can be creative, you must be careful.  Don't get too rebellious, or you'll end up insulting readers by doing something like, say, ignoring traditional vampire rules and have them only sparkle in the sunlight.  Lameness.

Hint for non-Worldbuilders: to help your skills in this area, just describe your city or hometown.  Don't give your writing any plot, but just describe the people in your town, how wealthy this place is, what kind of shops and entertainment one can expect, what the weather is like, and what sort of animals live there.

The Characterist:  This is my favorite type of writer - the person who knows people and therefore writes the most interesting and realistic people you've ever read.  I love how they intelligently comment on the ways of individual behavior.  These folk are just so excellent in crafting not only believable people, but crafting the sort of people you could go on and on hearing about.

An example of this is Richard Adams, who wrote Watership Down.  This book is friggin' excellent, and if you haven't read it, that's a shame.  It's basically the story of a group of rabbits that leave their warren to escape an unknown doom and create a new warren of their own.   This story is excellent, because each of the bunnies involved has his own personality, like Fiver, the seer of sorts, Bigwig, the tough rabbit that can outfight all the rest, and Hazel, the unintentional leader of all these buns.

The best part of this book is that the rabbits have their own language, religion, and explanation for the world around them.  They have to figure out things that we already understand, like roads, rivers, and traintracks.  They call all motor engines "Hrududus", and they even have a legend as to why rabbits are near the bottom of the food chain.  There is something dang special about this book, and y'all would do well to read it.

Characterists -- you can write basically any type of fiction that you want.  Biography, on the other hand, is not so good for you.  While you are extremely good at reading personalities and implying them in a work, you're not always the best at writing a real person.  This is mostly because you come across as biased, even though all you're doing is displaying your in-depth understanding of them, rather than being a blunt non-fiction writer that you'd need to be.

Hint for the non-Characterists: Describe yourself and what you believe in the clearest terms.  Take for example, your belief in Canadians.  Write down exactly how they make you feel.  Then find two or three people who are different from you (but not Canadian) and ask them how they feel about Canadians.   Compile your research and try to figure out what sorts of people feel what way about them.  As a last but optional step, you can meet Canadians (or research whatever topic you prefer) and see how they are different from what you have compiled.

The Satirist:  This person can be either fiction or nonfiction, though generally they are bent on nonfiction or tend to write fiction very sarcastically and as a thinly-veiled covering of their ideas about the real world.  These people are good at making a person feel like their dumb whenever the Satirist is around, despite the fact that the Satirist is only about as smart as the normal person.  Their advantage comes from the sharp and forceful way they use their words.  In debates they generally either make you feel that you shouldn't say anything, or make you feel like you have to shout to get your point across.  They're not good listeners.

What they are good at is words.  They love dialogue, and are extremely good at making readers laugh or otherwise emote with their works.  Their primary skill is dialogue, and while a Characterist is also good at dialogue, the Satirist is capable of writing sharper words that are fun in and of themselves, without having to have them spoken by any specific character.  There is a type of Satirist that feels he can only get his ideas across through writing, and another type that feels he's better off doing so outloud.

Satirist -- do your research.  There's nothing worse for you than thinking you're right and being clearly wrong. You get away with it a lot, but not always.  You can write webcomics and screenplays very well, while also dodging having to describe backgrounds.  Your primary nonfiction talent is philosophy, in which you are very clear in what you write.

Hint for non-Satirists: Pick an issue you feel very strongly about and defend it.  Write a page or so about this, until you feel your opinion is described.  Then go back and edit your work.  Then go to a thesaurus or and try to find a few complicated words (not too many, just ones that tickle your fancy) and use them to replace your more common words.  Or, alternatively, take any random sentence from any book you like, and then rewrite it an entirely different, and more interesting way.

The Oralist:  This is a "non-writer" type of writer.  These sorts of people prefer to talk, and though they come up with good ideas, they find it so much easier to just say their ideas rather than write them down.  Their notes tend to be shorter and choppier, or just fairly boring sentences that will serve as a talking point.  These guys'll talk your dang ear off, but reading anything they write can be rather....huh.  They aren't stutterers, but from their writing voice you'd think they might be.

Oh, don't be offended, Oralists.  You know your weaknesses.  You also know your strengths, and you have a physical bearing and adaptable personality that outshine even the Satirists, who must use words to defend themselves.  You have friends and you have fun.  What do you need writing for?  Well, making yourself look intelligent for one.  Oralists tend to feel a mild nagging within themselves to put into writing their opinions.  It depends on the individual for how good they are at ignoring these naggings.  In any case, at some point in your life you're going to have to explain yourself to someone who is not present with you.

Oralists -- You are very good at nonfiction, particularly at "how-to" manuals.  If you venture out into fiction, you tend to write "nonfiction fiction" -- things like detective/cop stories, westerns, historical novels, modern women fiction, or just any genre that involves very strict rules of reality.  You aren't really interested in fantasy, and there's no need for you to be.  We've got that covered.  You just write a "how-to" about your favorite hobby, and you'll do well enough.

Hint for non-Oralists: Go outside already.  Get off the dang computer and talk to real people.  Go read a "how-to" manual about something and get yourself a hobby, preferably one that involves hanging out with others.  Trust me, talking helps you write.

The Journalist: The Journalist is a person that isn't fantastic at all.  They like excitement, but they also like reality and being involved in it.  Excitement that is fake isn't excitement to them at all.  Generally Journalists like to know everything and travel lots of places, and they feel most comfortable when they know every angle of the truth.  Note that I do not mean someone who is actually in the occupation of journalism, but the Journalistic archetype -- someone inclined to get a journalism job.

Oh, if you're an occupational journalist, beware if you start reading a lot of fiction that isn't related to a news story.  It might be a sign that your subconscious brain is unhappy, and you need a change in career.

Journalists can be a bit annoying and hyper, but they seek knowledge, and that's cool.

Journalists -- Don't get big headed.  You're educated but you don't know everything.  Take the time to learn about personality and logic, as knowledge ain't no good if you don't know what to do with it.  Consider yourself on the earliest segment on the production line of information: you don't build cars or shoes, you produce fabrics and sheet metal.  Don't come to conclusions, just produce the facts.

Hint for non-Journalists: Pick a subject you hate.  No, not something you like, something you hate.  Then research it.  Find out what the deal with it is and present it in a way that disguises your hate entirely.  No critiquing, no insulting, no nothing.

The Catchphraser: This is the sort of person that very naturally is able to describe things in simple but eloquent terms.  They sometimes complete your sentences for you (even though you're more of an artsy fart and like to use lots of words) and don't always have a lot of patience.  These are more "non-writer" writers, and they are happy enough being more social than other writers.  They are particularly good at shutting Satirists down or ignoring them.

The Catchphraser is a realist, and should stay away from fantasy as much as possible.  This group doesn't enjoy writing, as writing can involve a lot of work with delayed or non-monetary result.  This is fine.   Catchphrasers are practical, and we need practical people in this world.

These folk do know people.  Maybe not as in-depth as others, but they know enough about people to figure out in their own terms and get them to understand new ideas.

Catchphrasers -- get into marketing or speechwriting.  Take vague ideas that already exist and make them clear.  Take a product and sell it.  You're already good at this.  I don't have to tell you.

Hint for non-Catchphrasers: take a thing in your house that you really like, such as a computer or a shoe, and market it.  Write down reasons why a person should buy this and create a sales pitch that would make people want to buy this.  Don't let the idea intimidate you; pick something you really, really like, and you'll gush about it.  Edit the gushing.

The Poet and the Bard:  I put these two together because their differences are insignificant.  They both dwell in the more fantasy side of things, but can go more literal if they prefer.  Out of all the writers, these are one of the most able to go back and forth between fiction and non, though most of what they produce tends to be fantastic, or described as such.

The Bard is a musician.  Not so much a singer as a music writer.  Usually the can play an instrument, but this isn't an iron clad requirement.  The Poet, though similar, does not necessarily work with music, though in the end they both do the same thing: take things that are real and describe them fantastically.

Of the two, the Bard is a little more narrow.  Whatever the Bard does has to be singable or playable, and is usually more about an emotion than a happening.  Poets have freedom in both places, though in my opinion if they forget a certain musicality about their work, they're just ranters who rhyme.  Sometimes they're ranters that don't even rhyme.  I once read this poem by some schlub that was basically him apologizing to someone for eating their strawberries.  No meter, no rhyme, no friggin' POETRY.

What the Bard and the Poet both do is to take hold of a small idea, place, or emotion and strive to describe it, strive to make both themselves and the listener feel strong emotions and see very clear ideas in their head.  They are essentially fantastic equivalents to the Catchphraser, though brevity isn't a requirement for them.   They relate things that don't normally relate except through the thread of emotion that they see while others miss out.  Other times they reach through a feeling that permeates everyone, bringing us all visions of the things that these artists see.

Naturally, these are the hardest to describe, and there is an element of poetry in all fantasy writers.  These are the most spiritual of all the arts, and they relate to us in ways we don't understand -- if the poetry is good.  If the poetry is ranty, dull, trite, or completely unthought out, people are quick to reject it.  Making this the most risky of the arts.

Poets are different from Bards, as a Bard can sell his works commercially far easier than can a simple Poet.  One of the things a Poet can do is transition into fiction writing, and their poetry comes in handy for use in describing otherwise boring parts of a story, like transitions, narrations, or descriptions.

Poets and Bards -- remember to love what you do.  If you don't love it, you will fail.  Also, don't be sensitive if someone doesn't like your work -- practice makes perfect -- or doesn't get it -- the song or poem is possibly still good even if it's not entirely clear.

Hint for non-Bards/Poets: get out the thesaurus!  Pick out two things that seem unrelated and compare them, tying them together not with a comparison, but an emotion.  How does a peach relate to love?  Or how does a piece of paper relate to driving a car?  Be creative, you can do it!

So anyway, that's the major ones.   I may add some more that I think of, but for now, here you go.  I hope it gives you a balanced view that everyone is talented in writing, in one way or another, and is able to add things to the literary part of society.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Write Club - Cleanse the Palate

Hey y'all.  I feel like spouting today, so I will.  I was thinking about it lately, and writing this massive five part Mega Man fanfiction I've been doing for the past few years has really burned me out at a point or two.  I'm doing pretty good now, but there was a time when writing it was really hard.  I felt so burnt out and uninspired.

Which is why from time to time people have to stop writing and take a break.  I mean sure, sometimes "take a break" means write something else, but at the end of the day we all need to stop and cleanse the mind, not writing at all.  It's a weird thing to say now that it's NaNoWriMo month, and the writer types are trying to write 50,000 words (I need to get working on that) this month, but yeah, we all need a break sometimes.  And for the record, I think November is a terrible month to choose for NaNoWriMo.

Anyway, so what can you do?  Some of these options I'm going to list may seem obvious, but this isn't a thinker blog post, it's a nagging blog post.  I know us writer types have to be nagged into doing things a lot of the time, and so I will nag for this.  Trust me, your writing will be better in the end.

1. Go the heck outside.
Nature will always revitalize us, and the sun is wonderful.  Get out of the dang house and go for a walk.  I know for some of you this will be hard, as you live in a city and nature takes some distance to get to.  I personally like the city as well, but do what you have to do.

- Go lie in the sun for an hour.
- Go on a walk.
- Climb a tree.
- Hang out with friends.
- Go swing on a swing.  No, I don't care how old you are.  Bonus points if you go on the teeter-totter.
- Wash the car.  It's dirty.

2. Work.
For some reason, I generally always get inspired when I'm not sitting in front of the computer.  When I'm at church, school, work -- anywhere but where I can type my story -- it's so much easier to think of what to write.  Basically it's because my brain doesn't shut up, but maybe this can help you out too.

- Wash dishes.  No really, it works.
- Scrub the floors.
- Have you ever noticed that you have coffee/food stains on your lower cabinets in the kitchen?  No?  You might wanna check on that.
- Clean out your car.
- Scrub the tub.
- Mow the lawn
- Build a shelf.

3. Entertain yourself.
Hey, you're working hard putting your story together to entertain people, but what about your brain?  It needs fun stuff to do from time to time.  So long as you don't use this as an excuse to slack.  For example, watching TV is not always a good way to go, especially since your eyes might hurt from staring at the computer so much.

- Play a video game.  This is better than watching TV because you're actually doing something.
- Play a game.  You know, with like, real people.  The internet doesn't count.
- Karaoke is fun, especially in Asia.  You might not live in Asia, but do karaoke anyway.
- But a hamster and watch it run around in its cage.  They're so darn cute.  I love it when they drink from their water bottles.  Aww...or just watch the pet you have already.  Or someone else's pet.  Or that squirrel in your yard.

4. Shut up, brain.
Sometimes you're just done.  Your head hurts, you don't want to think about life, and you especially don't want to think about your fiction.  Trouble is, you're so burnt out that you can't even make your brain stop thinking about your story, and it's starting to make you sick.  Or, alternatively, you realize that you haven't been out of your fiction mode for a month.  Loved ones are sick to death of you talking about writing, but you have effectively cut your brain out of reality mode.  Or is this just me here?

- Go find a moderately busy place, like a restaurant or the mall, and just watch people.  Don't try to think about what they're doing or why they're doing it, just note their literal physical activity.  This will help you get away from your characters and expecting people to act a certain way.
- Sleep.  Your brain knows when you stayed up til three in the morning for a whole week, and it's punishing you for it.
- I suppose this is the category where TV fits, as long as you watch something that only mildly interests you.  If you like it a lot, you'll try to watch it more carefully.  If you hate it, you'll try to point out why.  No.  Go watch sports follies or PBS cooking shows.
- Write in your journal about reality.
- Stare at a color you really like.  Don't look at me like that, it works.
- Stop writing.  Entirely.  The first day will be a relief, but some time after that your brain will be so mad at you for not writing that it will start coming up with new ideas.  Warning: depending on your situation, you may need to stop writing for a longer period of time.  Don't let this stress you.  Your brain needs rest at times too.
- Write something else.  Sometimes it's just a specific story that's getting you down.  Even if what you write in the meantime isn't great or never gets published, go on ahead and do it.  Your brain will thank you later.

5. Music.
No, not all music works for this.  Usually the type of music that works best can change per person, but there are some genres that are right out.  Keep in mind that you're trying to refresh your mind, not overexcite it.  This means no techno, metal, rock, pop, fast jazz, or modern country.  Also, nothing depressing.  When you're happy, your writing comes easier.

- Listen to worship music.  Non-Christians won't like this one, but it works.   It just does.  Notedly, it works better if it's live rather than recorded.  Here's a link to a very relaxing song anyway:  Oh hey, and here's my favorite worship song:
- Floaty trance -- the trance that's all angel choirs and clouds.  Ishkur of Ishkur's Guide to Electronic Music despises this genre, and admittedly it doesn't really deserve to be taken too seriously.  That, however, doesn't stop it from being really good to listen to when you're burnt out.  This stuff is like water: boring, but refreshing. Links: or
- Enya.  Duh.
- Have you checked out DJ Redlight's new song Far From Home?
- Okay, so maybe you're one of those people that's stuck on lyrics.  Okay.   What you need in that case is silly electronic music, either trance [] or mildly melodramatic house []

Relax.  It's good for you.

6. Last step: get back to what inspires you.
This is the step I can't always guide you too much on.  It's something you have to know for yourself.  Okay, so you've been taking a break and taking care of yourself, so now it's time to work on returning to your work. You've got to bring yourself to the place you were when you first got the passion to write the story.

- What inspired you to write this story?  Is it a memory?  A sound?  A color?  Just generally get a hold of that and try to put yourself back where you were.
- Get out of your normal environment.  Go to the library or somewhere you know you can be alone or doesn't have anything to do with the daily grind.
- Go to a location that inspires you and just write.  I had a story come from a visit to Barnes and Noble, and it was a story I thought of every time I went there.  Surely this place exists for you.
- What music were you listening to then?  Step 5 is over, so it's cool if that happens to be metal or something.
- Reread your old stuff.  This will serve to constantly show what you wrote and remind you how much you love writing.  It will also help you not have plotholes.

So there you go, I hope this helped.  If you feel burned out, then eat, exercise, sleep, and do ten of the things I suggested in steps 1-5.  Don't kill yourself to finish a story.  If you really love your tale, you'll want to get it right.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Hey Y'all!

So, it's been a bit since I've posted last.  Yeah, I haven't forgotten the blog.  I just had a bad period of not really being able to write much.  Now I'm doing much better.

First off!

Well, Writer's Digest magazine is having a writer's contest where you write a story under 1,500 words.  I've got two stories ready, one almost, and two brewing in my head.  I'll send all five at the end of this month, and then it's for them to judge!  Once the contest is over, I plan on posting all my stories here.  Naturally, the rules say that the stories have to be formerly unpublished, and so I'm not even going to put them up here yet.  But they'll be up.  Why don't you compete against me? will accept stories ($20 entry fee per story) postmarked November 15 and earlier.  Hurry up, y'all!

Also, on the fifteenth on this month Blizzard's fan fiction contest will stop taking entries, so I've got to hurry about that.  It takes stories 2,500 to 7,500 words long, and each story has to be based in any of Blizzard's three universes: Starcraft, Warcraft, or Diablo.  I've got a story in the Starcraft realm, which I'll also put up after this contest is decided.  I'm not entirely pleased with it, but I still like the idea and want to share it, though I'm uncertain of my chances.  Since Blizzard's writing contests appear to take place every year about this time, I'm going to write up the better story idea I have in my head and submit it next year.  That brings me to--

NaNoWriMo!  This is the contest that has every year during the month of November.  It's the National Novel Writing Month!  This isn't really a contest because it has no prizes, but what it does do is challenge everyone to write 50,000 words during the month of November.  This isn't anywhere near as hard as it looks.  Any decent size paragraph you write will be about 100 words, and 500 paragraphs won't take forever. I'll work on my Mega Man fanfictions as well, but during this time I'll also start on my next year's Blizzard contest entry.

So what does that mean for this blog?  Well, for right now I've got some stuff to work on.  I'm going to be reviewing Mega Man 10's music, definitely.  I'm going to listen to the music some more before I do, but it'll be up eventually.  I may also come up with a progressive list of Mega Man robot master songs listed from worst to best.  Either that or my least to most favorite.  Yes, there's a difference.

Also, I'm going to review the Pixar movies.  I've started on that blog already, and it'll be up.  That may not be so interesting to you, but I'm going to rant about it anyway.

What I really want to do on this blog is make it more friendly for fellow writers, and so I'll be taking whatever writing topic I happen to be thinking about at the time.  Expect one on downing word count soon.

So yeah, I'm not dead.  I'll be writin'.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Barista's Coffee Guide

Hey there.  I would like to say hi to all the people that came here because of the letter I wrote in the Fayetteville Observer.  I've been working at Books A Million for near about 3 years, and now we're changing over to a 2nd And Charles.  This is a used bookstore that will also sell games, technology, and even vinyl records.  Check us out when we change, if you live in Fayetteville, NC.

Trouble is, the new store will not have a cafe.  I'm really sad about this, as I've learned a ton about what a coffee shop can do and what sorts of flavors go together.  If you look at any given coffee shop menu, you'd never realize that there's simply too many kinds of drinks for us to put them all up there.  So I'm writing this guide as my "legacy", so that I don't forget and so that everyone will try new things and new flavor combinations.  Life's too short to get the same thing all the time.

Starting off, here are some basic coffee drinks and what they are.

- Espresso: very strong coffee used to make all other espresso drinks.  This is not sold by size, but by number of shots.  They are usually sold as single, double, or triple.  You can get a quadruple if you want to, but generally you should only if you need to stay awake for a long time. :)

Espresso drinks--
- Cappuccino: espresso, steamed milk with foam.
- Latte: espresso, steamed milk with little to no foam.
- Breve: espresso, steamed half and half.
- Americano: espresso, hot water.
- Mocha: espresso, steamed milk, and chocolate.

Other drinks:
- Cafe au Lait: regular coffee with steamed milk.
- Chai latte: spiced tea with steamed milk.
- Steamer: your choice of flavor shots with steamed milk.

Cold drinks (note that any hot drink up there can be iced):
- Frappuccino (Frappe): a creamy, blended ice drink.   This can come in many different flavors, like original (coffee), vanilla, mocha, orange creamsicle, strawberry creamsicle, light original, light mocha, light vanilla, and a partridge in a pear tree.  There are as many frappes in the world as there are creative ideas.
- Smoothies: this will vary by store, but the flavors we used to have were orange, mango, strawberry, and acai berry/blueberry/pomegranate.  We also used to have cherry and banana/kiwi, and perhaps other coffee shops carry them, so don't be afraid to ask.
- Italian Sodas (called Italian Ice elsewhere): These are basically where you make up your own soda based on what flavor you prefer.  You can make this a cream soda, and this is generally good for the fruit flavors (except lemon or pomegranate -- keep it regular then).

Now, any given coffee shop will not have all the flavors you're looking for.  For example, the Starbucks at Fayetteville's Barnes and Noble doesn't have Irish cream.  (They also don't stir their drinks, so be sure to tell them to).  I hope that other Starbucks have Irish cream, because I went to an obscure coffee shop in China, and even they had it.  Darn it, if Starbucks is going to take over the world, then they can at least have the flavors I want.  Anyway, here are the flavors that we had over the past 3 years, and hopefully other shops do too.

Basic flavors:
Chocolate, vanilla, caramel, hazelnut, almond, Irish cream, white chocolate, coconut, cinnamon.

Most shops will have these.  I call them basic because these are the most blendable flavors.  You can add basically anything to chocolate, and hazelnut, almond, and Irish cream have what I call "underwhelming" flavors: they add quality, but not too much distinctiveness (for an underwhelming latte, get all three).  Experiment with these flavors a lot, because they'll go in anything.

Also, don't underestimate the awesomeness of coconut.  I don't even like the stuff, but it's just so tasty in our drinks.  Just getting a plain coconut latte will make your taste buds happy, I guarantee it.

Fruit flavors:
Strawberry, blackberry, lemon, pomegranate, orange, raspberry, apple, peach.

These flavors are more or less self-explanatory.  They're generally better for cold drinks, though raspberry, strawberry and blackberry are wonderful in mochas, whether the chocolate is normal or white.  Orange is a little different in a mocha, but it tastes good too.  Peach is good, but it's a bit too strong of a flavor.  It goes great in chai, but you might want to ask your barista to put in one less pump (unless you like your drink really sweet).

Note that pomegranate and lemon will work in frappes, but that is the only dairy drink they'll work in.  I don't know who would want this, but don't ask for a lemon latte or a pomegranate cream soda.  These syrups don't do well in milk, and you're not going to get a good drink.  They're really better for the blackberry lemonade (a non-dairy blended iced drink) or perhaps a pomegranate soda with no cream.

Hm...I wonder if lemon would be good in a strawberry smoothie....

Extra flavors:
Gingerbread, pumpkin spice, frosted mint.

These flavors are more distinctive, and while they work well in several drinks, it generally depends more on your personal taste as to what you would like them in.  I love mint mochas, or even just a shot of mint in a regular coffee, but not everyone does.

With that in mind, I've come up with some drinks that will not be on the menu, but are certainly worth trying.  These are guaranteed to taste good.

White chocolate cocoa with cinnamon.
Hazelnut mocha.
Coconut cafe au lait
Pumpkin spice chai
Coconut mocha frapp
A strawberry smoothie that's half vanilla frappe (add a couple pumps of chocolate if you want)
Caramel apple latte, or frapp.
Caramel Irish cream latte.
Strawberry/lemon frappe
Lemon coconut Italian soda (remember, no creamer!)

So there you go.  Hopefully this guide will help you add different flavors together and figure out new things to try of your own.  Enjoy!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Nitpickery --- Starcraft 2

So, I just watched an SC2 let's play on the net.  I don't own the game yet, as I am a cheapskate, but I wanted to see what happened.  I must say, I'm both giddy and appalled.  Giddy because I love the presentation and gameplay.  Playing the game isn't too different from the first so you don't have to learn a whole new setup.  The presentation is magnificent, and the characters look mostly creative (what is the deal with Raynor's arm?), and I love being able to explore the Hyperion as well access Zeratul's memories.  It's a great game that's got both dark elements, goofy elements, and yet an overall very satisfying experience.  I enjoy it very much.

That being said, my inner writer is going "GRRRRR..." because I like to nitpick.  Some of the writing in this game is absolutely weird.  Starting with:

Zeratul.  Now, in vanilla, Zeratul was great.  He was smart, cool, and hung out with the Templar with no problem.  Then in Brood War he suddenly became kinda stupid.  I mean, if Kerrigan was talking to me and said. "I'll be seeing you again, real soon", the first thing I would do is shoot her in the face.  She's the friggin' Queen of Blades and she's threatening you, and you're just going to ignore her?  Besides, Zeratul never even asked himself why a former human would appeal to the Protoss if her mind was free from the newly dead Overmind.  I mean, wouldn't she try to find her old human friends?  Well, to be fair, the other 'Toss didn't ask themselves that either.  

So now in SC2, Zer seems completely different.  He was previously dark and brooding, and towards the end of Brood War very depressed.  He was cool.  Now he's amazingly generic.  His voice isn't as cool, nothing he says really means anything, and he kinda just comes and goes without speaking much to Raynor.  Raynor is supposed to be his friend, and Zer just shows up, goes "DOOOOMM!", hands him the memory crystal, then disappears.  Can't Zer at least hang around for a mission?  Maybe at least talk to Raynor like a real person would?

It's a good thing the cinematic where Zer and Kerrigan were fighting looked dang awesome, because not a thing they said had any relevance.  It was like "Doom!", "Hope!",  "Fate", and "Prophecy!" without really saying anything the audience would understand or care.  

For that matter, nothing Kerrigan says in the entire game was interesting. In vanilla and BW, she spoke a little melodramatic but always in a more or less human, real fashion.  Listening to her gloat was actually kinda funny.  Now....just more of the Zer disease.  I can't really judge the new voice actor she has, because the lines themselves are just too dumb to really compare her to Glynnis Talken.  It's not her fault.

So yeah, I found those two characters to be the weakest part of the plot.  My other complaints are closer to nitpickery.  Next is Raynor.  Now, I really like the Raynor character.  For the most part, he was really good and enjoyable, and there's a cinematic where he's taking down Tychus that's pure awesome.  For the most part I enjoyed watching Raynor do stuff, and went along with his struggles, protesting, "Hey, Jimmy, don't you drink so much!"

My main complaint with Raynor is the lack of connection between his SC2 counterpart and his BW one.  He's the same character for the most part, only for his behavior concerning Kerrigan.  At the end of BW, we last see Raynor when Fenix has been killed, and Raynor swears that he's going to be the one to kill Kerrigan.  

How does he go from that to being "ooh, I'm gonna risk the lives of all my followers to go save her"?  It's really, really odd.  If they could have made some sort of logical transition, like having Raynor really freaked out about having to save her when he doesn't want to but then later realizing that he does need her to save the universe, that would have been a better way to go.

While this may be a lesser point, it's one I feel the most strongly about.  Mengsk.  While I would never like such a person in real life, as a character I found him strongly interesting in the original.  I loved watching his hypocrisy and how being forced to work for infested Kerrigan started showing off some of his true, more cowardly/crafty/selfish colors.  He was so rich and deep as a character that he was the character so dang fun to despise.

Now?  Nope.  In some ways he's just a generic bad leader who uses propaganda, and in other ways he's a replacement for the Confederacy.  While the propaganda storyline was actually pretty good, it tore down Mengsk by making the things he said pretty dull and trite.  He was actually good at making speeches in SC1.  Now he says stuff like "humans are great" and "I love everyone" and blah blah, all that bullcrap.  C'mon, where's he making his riveting speeches and stuff?  Can't it actually look like he's a decent leader so humans don't look like complete idiots for following him?

Now, for the other half, that he's a replacement for the Confederacy, you have to think a little.  Now, in one sense he's a bad leader who replaced a bad government: the Confederacy.  That's entirely fine.  What's not fine is him being note for note exactly like him.  He's his own type of dictator, not a carbon copy of them.  

Specifically, I don't like that he's behind doing experiments with Zerg/Protoss hybrids (which, if you recall one of the maps that came out between SC1 and 2, was actually something the Confederacy was previously doing).  I do expect him to want to fight and to improve the Dominion's standing in the universe, but come on.  I always liked the notion that Duran, the "former Confederate", was the one who initiated the experiments during that government, then abandoned them when the events of vanilla's Terran missions took place.  I really should give this plotline more time, but it really irks me.

And so Arcturus has his son, Valerian, who is okay in my opinion.  I look forward to seeing more of him and whatever he's up to.  However, I read that Valerian was created because "Arcturus' story had already been told".  This says one thing to me: that I liked Arcturus far better than the writers of Starcraft did.

Note how I hate these not as a gamer, but as a writer.  Writing Starcraft fanfiction was what gave me my start at learning to become a fantasy/sci fi writer, and I'm better off for it today.  That being said, I had a lot in my head of potential for all the characters that exist, and the only character in the franchise whose story has been properly told is Tassadar.  We know what motivates him and how his life turned out because of it.  Even characters like DuGalle or my personal favorite Judicator Aldaris probably have really great backstories worth getting into.

Crap, I should write a novel for Aldaris and see if Blizzard lets me publish it....

Anyway, to get to my point, I saw Mengsk with a lot of potential.  Like Raynor, he too had a moment where he hated Kerrigan enough to ally with the UED (his competitors for power) and the Protoss to try to get rid of her.  And she pwned him, allowing him to live only because she wanted him to see her taking over the universe.  This to me leads to a great storyline for him, especially since Mengsk previously allied with her to retake his home planet from the UED.  I see him something like "I sold my soul to give my worst enemy control of the K sector...I really need to ramp things up for when she comes back.  She's not taking my empire away from me again".

I really see this as leading to a change in Mengsk.  He becomes darker, more sensible, and less willing to make mistakes or disregard people ever again.  Honestly, it makes more sense for him to go Kerry-hunting rather than trying to run down Raynor all the time.  That way he could use his anti-Zerg policies for propaganda.  

Another thing about the whole having to have the rebellion, though this might be more subjective.  I always saw Mengsk as someone who would treat his subjects well enough if they just did what he said.  It's like in the first Terran missions: he was cool to Raynor and Kerrigan as long as they obeyed him.  He even showed some measure of grace to Duke by saving him from the Zerg.  Even in Mengsk's megalomaniacal selfishness, he didn't try to harm the people that made him a ruler for no reason.  He's willing to do things to make himself look good, unlike the Confederacy.  They were generic bad guys, and Mengsk isn't.  He's artistically evil.  Like Shang Tsung from Mortal Kombat, in a way.

I'll admit that's a personal problem, but it just seems that Mengsk can do more than be a prop baddie.  I just hope Valerian gets to do more later on and isn't treated as shallowly as his dad.

Okay, final rant point.  What's the deal with the Zerg?  I understand Kerry having to be an important character.  But I know I'm not the only person who thinks it's weird that the Zerg "aren't bad guys, just misunderstood".  I mean, at the end of BW everyone finally seems to understand that it's better to fight the Zerg than each other, and oops!  The evil race of critters that infest and destroy any species they come across is really just misunderstood.  How dandy.  How friggin' dandy.  Way to undercut the franchise.  I take it back.  This is the plot point that irritates me the most.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Write Club: The Art of Interpretation

I was thinking about this the other day, and I've noticed that people aren't very good at translating emotions when it comes to reading works that are written a century or more before.  I fault modern schools and attitudes for this.  While I realize that every generation has a different perspective on past eras than other generations, I feel like this generation in particular is trying their very hardest to translate emotions in the most staid, non-comprehending way possible.

Be aware, from this point on I get ranty.  If you want to skip the rant, scroll down to later on to get into my writing point.

A lot of the time this concerns race.  Modern America (as well as other countries, probably, but I'll just speak of my own) are very hyper-sensitive about race.  The slightest word can set off a firestorm of media lynching.  For example, a lot of people freak out because the n word is in The Adventures of Huck Finn.  Honestly though, everybody knows that Mark Twain was in fact anti-racist, and the n word was just said a lot more then.  While I feel like editing works to be PC is wrong, I'm okay with producing a censored version without the word for use in public schools.  That, however, is a subject for another time.  Actually, I don't really like that story for unrelated reasons, but that also is another topic.  I've already ranted on why I hate school chosen books.

Thing is, people do that all the time.  They see an offensive word or opinion and just freak out and say they're racist or sexist.  C.S.Lewis had plenty to say about women caught in the thralls of modernism, but he also had a lot to say about basically everybody else.  He wasn't biased, he was saying things that are true.  I find the things he says on modern women particularly poignant, and that's weird because he wrote them all like fifty years ago and they're still true -- it's possible that the real issue with "modern" women is not modernity but our attitudes about being modern.  I'm a chick, I get to say this.

The thing I find most ironic about this attitude is that the public picks and chooses who they call racist.  They don't mention that Queen Elizabeth I saw both black people and the Irish as inferior.  They say nothing about the fact Charles Darwin's next book after writing "The Origin of the Species" advocated eliminating "inferior" races.  They don't mention that the creator of Planned Parenthood was a huge racist and that a disproportionate number of abortions are done on black people in America.  Nobody bothers to connect these two notions that history books claim: that humans are descended from monkeys and that life began in Africa.  Okay, children, what's two plus two?  No, it ain't five.

I'm getting ranty.  Really, I'm trying to make a writing point rather than a political one, but I can't help it.  The world is turning me into a dang conspiracy theorist.  I really don't want to be save me....

So anyway, one of the dumbest examples of this intentional bad interpretation is the false claim that the book of Genesis describes creation twice and is therefore proof that the entire Bible is wrong.  This is the most stupid argument against the Bible I've yet heard.

What really happens is this: the first chapter of Genesis describes what God did on a day by day basis, then chapter two opens up with a new summary of creation leading up to a description of the garden of Eden.  How in the world is that proof against the Bible?  It's called writing style, people!  It's a device used plenty of times.

This particular writing device is done so that the author can explain a more detailed, organized description so that the setting and tone can be established.  This is the purpose of the first chapter.  However, this description, while putting everything in perspective, doesn't lead to the plot.  Hence a summary of creation that's not as detailed, but refers specifically to that which will lead the reader to what's going to happen in this story and what it's about.  The second part doesn't contradict the first, it only accentuates a different aspect of creation (the making of man) so that the story can continue.  Even nonfiction must have a sense of story, or else you get public school education.

Alright, ranting over!  You can come back now!

A really good metaphor for this whole topic is in the movie Collateral. Jamie Fox is a marvelous actor, and in this his character has a stutter that pops up when he's really nervous.  If you try to listen to the specific things he says, you're liable to get confused.  But if you step back just a bit from what he's saying, you know what Jamie is getting across.

So let's look at some writing and see how we can interpret it.  Note that as a reader or critic you should try not to so much judge the writing by what you know, but by the emotions and ideas the artist is trying to get across.  A critic once said that Robinson Crusoe was motivated by money, and if you don't want to turn out like that weirdo, remember what your writer is trying to say.  Don't look at small details and judge a writing by them alone as if they're some sort of big point to the plot. What is the message of the writer?

I prefer novels, but for the purpose of this blog let's look at some lyrics.  This is the song "The Sound of Goodbye", the link to which I'll go ahead and point here.  It's very poetic.

And the lyrics:

"Every face I see is cold as ice
Everything I touch is pale
Ever since I lost imagination

Like a stream that flows into the sea
I am lost for all eternity
Ever since you took your love away from me

Sometimes, the sound of goodbye is louder than any drumbeat"

Now, we are all (I hope) aware that the dumbest way to interpret this is in a more literal sense.  Take the first stanza for example.  Think about it.  Every face the speaker sees (let's call her Anna) is cold as ice?  So....she's like, touching people's faces and they're cold?  Wait, why are they cold?  Are only their faces cold?  So, like, everything she touches is pale.  So Anna touches something and it automatically becomes a more faded tint?  Is this like a parody of the Midas touch?  And how in the world is she supposed to lose her imagination?  It's right there in her head.  Or does she have a headache or something and she can't think of anything?

So you see, this is no way to interpret the song.  If I went up to you and started asking these sorts of questions, you would immediately go sour and start telling me I'm missing the point.  Perhaps I'm stubborn, and I say in reply, "Well, look, Anna is the one who said every face is as cold as ice.  What do you mean that's not what she's trying to say?  That's exactly what she's saying!  Why would she say it unless she meant it?"

Hopefully you would call me an idiot (and take away whatever drugs I'm apparently on) and say that it's poetic: Anna is trying to call to mind emotions by using extreme examples.  For example, by saying that every face is as cold as ice, she's could be commenting on two possible things: that people are unfriendly to her (their action), or that no one is appealing to her (her action).  It would be very dull and ignorable to just say "Oh, people don't like me" or "I think people are so unwelcoming these days".  Those statements are emo, and Anna's statement is poetic.  The difference lies in the wording, and whether or not Anna (or your given speaker) is connecting with you or not.

When Anna next says "everything I touch is pale" she is indicating a lifelessness on the part of her actions.  She is helpless, dull, and ineffective.  "Ever since I lost imagination" is extra poetic, and you can't really understand this line, I think, unless you see the context.  But in any case, it indicates that her power of thinking and seeing the things that do not exist yet or exist only intangibly has faded out.  She can't appreciate beauty, feel poetry, or experience love, all of which are generally intangible.

She is incapable of future thinking (because of course all imagination consists of a future) because she is so stuck in her present circumstance.    Well, I get that last part mainly from reading the rest of the context: Anna has lost her love, forced to say goodbye when she was unwilling.

"But no," Druggie me tells you.  "Where all you getting all this from?  She's talking about ice and streams, not relationships.  She's 'lost for all eternity'.  Breaking up with a boy isn't all that bad now."

No, but it feels that way, particularly if Anna was close to her love.  Here it indicates that Anna must have been close to the one she loved (note that we can't say for sure that she's speaking of a boyfriend), because her identity is being absorbed away into non-uniqueness.

"Where are you getting that?  A stream isn't lost for all eternity.  It's there!  See, look, there it is!"

Surely you get the metaphor.  The specific water that flows in a stream isn't there forever.  It's constantly moving, heading downhill the shortest way to the ocean, where the water from the stream will be mixed in with all the other water in the world, and there is no way of telling what stream that water came from ever again.  The loss of identity, of individuality.

"Okay, so what's this about goodbye being louder than a drumbeat?  I guess a goodbye would be louder if the drums were being played quietly and someone was shouting goodbye."

Stop, stop, stop.  That's, again, the dumbest way to interpret things.  Drums by nature are intrusive instruments.  They bang and keep the beat, acting as a harsh sound versus soft sounds like harps and flutes.  They violently go in, increasing intensity of a song and refusing to be subtle.  The goodbye that Anna faces is as violent as drums, and yet worse than them.  It bangs in her ears, refusing to go away.  Her life can't go back to peace, as this goodbye cannot be ignored.  It fills her ears more than any loud drumbeat could, drowning out any happiness or not so bad aspects of Anna's life.

See, you have to interpret this on an emotional level.  It would be too simple to say "my love left me and now I feel horrible".  It's harder to connect to that.  By using extreme language, Anna is conveying her pain and exactly how this feels to her.  We can feel her disconnection with life.

On the level of songwriting, this is exactly what I was talking about with Disney movies; the ones that aren't specific but connect more to the audience are going to be remembered.  We don't know specifically what happened to Anna.  We have no clue who or what her love is, or why they left her, or why they were so important to her in the first place.  For the purposes of a song, we understand Anna better by her simple appeal to our deepest emotions.

So in any case, be aware of the way you interpret things.  Remember to choose an artful way to interpret it, and be careful of getting too attached to specifics.  I might have been talking about a song, but this applies to other things as well.  For example, I looked at this discounted book by some weirdo chick, and it was something like "One Year with Nicholas Sarkozy".  That thing wasn't worth the one dollar it cost.

The problem with the book was the way the author wrote it.  She basically wrote little snippets of very basic things Sarkozy did, like shaking hands or relaxing at the end of a hard day.  You only had to read 3 (if that) of her trite little comments to understand exactly how she felt about the French leader.  Conversely, you could read the whole darn thing and not learn two cents worth about Sarkozy himself.

So, as a critic of a story or interpreter of emotions there are some things you should remember.
1. Don't base your interpretation on nitpicky details.  What is the overall purpose of the writing?
2. Interpret what the writer is saying/person is doing.  Your audience wants to know about them, not you or your opinion of them.
3. Try to see what emotion the writer is trying to appeal to.  How does the writer want you to feel?

So yeah, that's my rant for today.  Thanks for readin'.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The King's Speech: Beyond Nitpickery

I just want to point out something. I rant and rave and nitpick all about The King's Speech, but at the end of the day I haven't said the real problem with it. I've pointed out details, at flaws in storytelling, but the real problem of this movie is not storytelling. It's certainly not acting, nor is it writing. Well, actually it sort of is writing, but bigger than that.

It's symbolism. So think to yourself. What is a king's speech? What's anybody's speech? It's a symbol, more so because it comes from a king. It's a symbol of strength of a country, of belief in the future of a nation, or of the belief in the people of that nation. Specifically, the speech in the movie was a symbol that England was not going to roll over and let the Nazis defeat them. It was a symbol that England was going to fight and prevail, and if not prevail, then fill the Nazis with horror at the memory of having had to fight them.

Doesn't that sound nice? Doesn't it sound wonderfully strong and relentless? Deliciously barbarian and yet completely noble? Well, that's how it should have gone. The King's Speech had good actors and a good historical background, yet we can't judge a movie on its background, but what it presents. Yes, we all know that the King of Britain gave speeches, and it's true he was a stutterer that had to overcome it. Nevertheless, when you present the king in the movie as an overbearing emo kid that can't see out of his own personal sphere, you lose touch with the historical aspect of the movie.  Notedly, I've learned to be fine with embellishing history in movies. I love Braveheart, even though Robert the Bruce was decidedly more hardcore in real life and the Princess of Wales was a child when William Wallace was running about.

Actually, the movie I'm going to compare King's Speech to is The Stone of Destiny, a movie that came out not too long ago that was also about historical events at only a few years later setting: Scottish college student Ian Hamilton is upset with his countrymen and with Scotland's situation in general because everyone seems to have given up on being independent from Britain. He and three friends go to Westminister Abbey and steal the Stone of Destiny (AKA the Stone of Scone) to show Scotland that she is just as proud and independent as ever.

You will note that the Stone is the exact same thing as the speech: a symbol. It's a symbol of Scotland's kings and freedom. Okay, so we've got two movies side by side that are more or less historically accurate and both concern a symbol. Why then do I claim that Stone of Destiny is a far better movie than The King's Speech?

For the most part I find that the characters in Stone of Destiny are more endearing. They feel like real people. Each of them goes to steal the Stone for their own personal reasons, but also for Scotland: they feel this intangible, inexpressible love for their home, and even though it's the most silly thing in the world to think that stealing a dang rock from England will do much in the end, it's such a passionate thing to do. I understand their reasoning completely, even though they never explain this out. Moreover, their individual reasonings are perfectly human. Ian is tired of his country giving up and calling themselves "North England".  One compatriot wants to do something and be more than just a little nobody that everyone underestimates.  Another conspirator is a happy, humorous and entirely given to passion person, but at the end of the day he wants to be more than a joke. Kay is more sensible than the boys, but she too is swayed by her love of country. Everyone's reasoning is human and understandible. There's nothing fake about them.

Now, the lead actor from The King's Speech did a good job acting, and in many ways he was sympathetic. None of the other characters really are. I mean, you might think Geoffrey Rush's character was interesting, but I found it hard to sympathize with him. The primary reason for all of this is that all of them feel like stereotypes. You've got your "unorthodox" teacher-type, your wimpy and whiny preacher (some church dude none of the writers gave a crap about), your angry and ill-defined father type (the previous king), the "I must live my own life!" guy (elder brother David), and so on and so forth. How identifiable. Even the two cute girls that are supposed to be the current Queen of England and her sister are very dull and aren't given anything unique to do.

Of course, it's not all just about characters. My primary point is something else. It's symbolism. Okay, now in The King's Speech, they're about to get into the craziest war ever, involving the three most evil human beings to ever exist: Adolf Hitler, Josef Stalin, and Mao Tse Tung. They're going to be bombed, they're going to see the horrors of prison camps, children will be sent out of cities, and they're going to fight and die for their country. This is no joke. They're embarking on a crazy journey to save all of dang Europe! I hope Europe remembers to this day that much of it would not exist if it weren't for England.

This is quite a weighty matter, to say the least. What the crap is stealing a stone compared to it? A stone doesn't matter. Who in their right mind would trade victory over evil for a heavy chunk of sandstone? Why in the world do I dare believe that a story of stealing a symbol is better than a story of preparing for World War II?

It's all in the symbolism. In Stone of Destiny, all of them believed in Scotland. They loved her. While they had their own motives for going to steal the Stone of Destiny, at the end of the day they did it for their country. Even in the face of Kay getting sick or Ian getting caught, they refused to give up, because the symbolism of the Stone was important. They treasured the symbolism with genuine love.

Okay, so how did they treat symbols in The King's Speech? First of all, the king himself is one. He is a symbol of England's...something. I actually don't get why England still has royalty even though the Prime Minister is the guy doing everything, but if a royal is important to England, well, let them have one. It's their business. Anyway, he's a symbol of England's heritage. Rush's character insists that he and the king be treated as equals, and refuses to treat the king if they can't be on a first name basis. Thus, symbolism takes a hit. If kings aren't something "above" the normal populace (not in value, simply position), or at the very least people entrusted with the spirit of England, then what good are they? Aren't they just fancy-pants people supported by taxpayers, then?

Now, this alone I'd be fine with, as one can say it was necessary for the King's healing that he have a more casual relationship with his speech therapist. Perfectly fine. But then they start doing other things wrong. First, they don't show the two most relevant groups that show how important the king is as a symbol: there's the positive group, namely the people of England that need protecting/encouragement, and there's the negative group, the enemy. If there's no one to protect, why does the king matter? And if there's no one to defend against, same question? They show a scene comparing Bertie's oral skills to Hitler's, and that was a good scene, but other than that we never feel terror at the Nazis, or at least at war in general. People are consumed in meddling politics, David's trangressions, and Bertie's emo whining. So....ain't there like a war or somethin' about to go on then? You have to look at the bigger picture, Donna.

Then there's the coronation. I hate the preparation part the worst of all. At one point, Rush's character is running through the coronation vows, looking through it to see how much the King actually has to say during the ceremony. As he's going through the long parts that the administrator of the vows says to the King, he goes, "Rubbish, rubbish, rubbish". He could have easily said, "blah, blah, blah" or whatever. By directly insulting the words of this vow, he's attacking and diminishing a symbol. Likewise, Rush is trying to provoke the King in another bit by sitting in the ancient throne of British kings, which is normally reserved only for ceremony and no non-royal posterior dare touch. Ironically, the Stone of Scone is actually inside this throne under the seat, at which my heart turned angry. I'm Irish, not Scottish, but they are my family. We're the only true Celts left in the world. Leave the Celtic symbols alone!

So thus Rush disrespects another symbol. His excuse for this is he's trying to piss Bertie off, because Bertie talks better when he's mad. This is a very materialist view: symbols don't matter because they aren't physically real. The vow is nothing but words strung together and the throne is a dang old chair with somebody else's rock in it. If disrespecting these is what it takes to make the King talk better, then it's worth it, right?

Wrong. After all, what is all this speech therapy for? For Bertie, the next King George, to give a speech which inspires his nation and encourages them as they embark on a crazy war. The speech, of course, is likewise a symbol. It's just a bunch of words strung together, just like that "rubbish, rubbish, rubbish" vow. Wait, if the speech isn't important, why bother giving it? It's meaningless words. Why bother having a king at all? He's some emo kid on the public dime.

See, the value of symbols lies in your treatment of them. Speeches inspire because they are like song. They touch upon our innermost being and communicate to us the things we hold dear. They reach past the boundaries of language and past the daily grind to reach us at our core, where our deepest emotions and most well set beliefs lie. The Stone of Scone isn't worth anything because it's a stone, it's worth something because there's a whole bunch of Scots out there that love their country and believe better things for Scotland. It's worth something because the people of Scotland give it worth. It's terrible to destroy the Stone or disrespect it because then you would be simultaneously disrespecting the Scots. If we adopt a materialist view and see things as only worth what they phsically are, then we will never see anything better. After all, if Bertie's worth only lay in his ability at the beginning of the movie, by what right would we have to believe anything better for him?

You say I'm missing the point. You say that The King's Speech is about a man learning to become a symbol and his emotional journey along the way. Whatever. It is difficult for me to sympathize with someone who can't see outside his own problem. He doesn't persue a good voice out of love, but out of obligation. This symbol has failed. It gave a speech, but in the end, it was not for England. The end of the movie swells with triumph, happy for the king. There isn't even a hint at the darkness that is to face England for the next six years.

Because of the way England does its monarchs, a king's value is only in his symbolism. If a king stands only for himself, what good is he? Maybe you feel weak. Maybe you feel like the world has caught you in its clutches and you don't have the ability to proceed, just like Bertie. The easiest way to cure yourself is to remember that life is about everyone else. Forget yourself, and remember them. Then you will be happy.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Nerd Rants -- Is it Okay to Nerd Rant?

Hey y'all.  I just wanted to address an issue I was pondering the other day.

Okay, so I'm apparently a nerd.  What makes me so?  I think about things no one else wonders about, and I try to be logical.  Neither of these things is particularly unique.  All most people have to do to be like this is just think and pay attention to the logical things around them for a good worldview.  It's not hard.  Yet still, I often find when I notice something contradictory in a movie or story, other people either don't see it or don't care.  I'm either called a nerd, or the person will go "wow, you're smart" and drop the subject.  Thanks for the compliment, but it hardly seems like a compliment when you ignore my observation immediately and talk about something else.  Maybe I said it because I want a dialogue, y'know.  Maybe.

Is it wrong of me to want to point out these things?  Yet it seems more and more common that the only people who even want to discuss these things with me are fellow nerds.  It's as if popular people can't be bothered with noticing details.  What the crap do popular people talk about these days?  I'm really mystified.  I can't stand popular music (I'm not really an undergrounder, it just sucks right at this moment) and I'm not interested enough in celebrities to talk about them.  I'm not boy crazy, so I don't spend all my days going on about them.  Seriously, someone tell me what popular people talk about.  Money?  Clothes?  Going on trips?

To me, the real stuff of life is history, science, and story.  It pisses me off to no end how much kids these days know about the intricacies of zombies (I met a kid that says he believes in them - no kidding!) and yet don't know bull about history.  History is a grand story about the world, with lots of topics and cultures.  It's a vast library of things that's happened, and you're bound to find a topic you're interested in.

I mostly bring this up because I was thinking about Red Letter Media's vast reviews of the three "Star Wars" prequels.  He seriously rips these movies to shreds.  Honestly, no movie deserves this more than the prequels.  I couldn't possibly have done a good job as Harry Plinkett in coming up why these movies suck.  When the second one came out, my brain was in such a fog of boredom that I couldn't possibly care enough to want to. Well, before I watched Plinkett's review, anyway.  I love listening to him rip them up.

At one point I found this forum where people have been going on about RLM, talking about his reviews and whether they liked them or not.  They were generally positive, but one cranky fellow said that RLM was doing nothing more than making nerdy nitpicks about why the movies stank and that the whole reviews are stupid.  I don't know what this guy was watching, but most of RLM's critiques are things like plot and character relatability, definitely the two most important parts of any story.

But anyway, my point is, is it just nerdy that RLM would even bother going through the trouble of pointing out all the various problems with these movies?  Was it all a wasted effort?  Now, if one wants to complain that RLM was too disgusting or his kidnap segments were beside the point, I won't argue with that.  I found much of it to be entertaining, but yeah, he did cross the line at several points.  For the moment I'm not talking about that aspect, just whether or not these were worth his time at a reviewing standpoint.

I honestly think they were.  RLM, by means of its fictitious Harry Plinkett, found a way to explain why the prequels failed at both a storytelling and cinematic level.  Watching them is actually educational when it comes to finding out how to write and film a movie.  RLM notices so many of the things that we all noticed subconsciously ("You might not have noticed it, but your brain did"), but could never put into words.  He puts together a compelling argument about the lack of ability George Lucas displayed in these movies.  As a nerd, I feel really justified that someone would take the time to point out things that are wrong in modern cinema that few other people seem to understand or care about.

Now, maybe he was compelling, and maybe he had a point.  However, at the end of the day, why was it necessary or helpful that he rant on and on about how bad the prequels were?  Are all the people that enjoyed these reviews huge nerds?

I've read a lot of C.S. Lewis, and apparently back in the day people liked discussing the things they read about in their schools, like Greek mythology and old histories.  I mean, I know Lewis was a nerd in the terms of his day (unsocial, uninterested in bland chit chat or parties), but at the same time, because the educational system was a lot stronger, people actually discussed things like history and literature.  Modern movies can't really compare, but at the same time, that's the age we live in.  These are the stories we have to go by now.  Why can't we talk about their details?

The first problem is that we don't have a frame of reference anymore.  I have the ability to nerd it up because I've read a lot of good books (the ones that came out 50+ years ago...seriously, check it out.  There's a real difference) and I have a sense of storytelling to some extent.  Red Letter Media can nerd it out because he has a good understanding of cinema and screenwriting, and unlike me can actually express these in a coherent manner.  I only sound logical now because I'm not talking to you in person -- I think in colors, not words.

But now?  Who knows these things?  Public schools focus on getting people through and passing tests, not making people want to learn.  If people don't want to learn, they won't choose to make educated choices in what they read and do.  Not everybody has to be history buffs, but dang, they can at least know who Madea, Eurypides, Cuthulain, Ananzi, and all them are.  It's to the point where we can't read books written a certain number of years ago because they make so many references to things the schools don't even try to make us interested in.

Notedly, I don't expect schools to teach us everything about everything, but the point of school is to teach the basics, namely reading, writing and math, then give us a desire to learn more and a good background to get a good job.  Kids these days come out of school and don't know where to go.  They don't have any practical knowledge.  Heck, some of them can't even read that, well.

My point is, it's good to nerd it out.  It's good to think about story this way.  Nothing makes me more sad than when someone says a movie is good because it's got giant robots fighting in it.  People talk a lot of crap about Transformers 2, but honestly the first was a pile of crap (other than the Mountain Dew robot).  You couldn't really expect anything from the sequel.  Even worse, people think that the Iron Man movie was good.  I seriously need to go RLM it, if Harry doesn't get to it before me.  So many fake characters, so many plot holes...and there's like no chick in it who isn't hot or otherwise in the prime of their attractiveness.  No nerds, none too old or too young, and none that can be respected on the merits of their mind or rank.  They're all a bunch of dang FS2s.

I understand people go to movies to relax, and I would do the same.  The trouble is, stupidity is not entertaining.  The only flashing lights I need to entertain me are actual flashing lights.  Those make more sense these days.

All that, basically to say a few things.
1. Saying it's nerdy to critique film is basically a slur.  What makes it a bad thing?  I understand if you don't particularly care about Star Wars, but to me RLM's reviews are good no matter what kind of story you like.  I like what it teaches about cinema.  You don't have to like Star Wars to understand that.

2. Just because you don't care about storytelling and think it's boring, that doesn't mean it's "nerdy" to care.  It just means you have different interests.  Conversely, it's not "ignorant" to not be interested in storytelling.  Granted, I wish people were, but there are other ways to be intelligent, not just in a literature sense.

3. Thinking about details rather than taking them for granted increases your brainpower.  Sure, maybe storytelling isn't your topic.  Still, when you learn to think of details in stories, you learn to think of them in history.  Also, you think of them when someone is just telling you something at the office, or when you're doing something observational in general.  If you don't care here, there's a chance you're not observant in other areas too.  Like I said before, you don't have to be a storytelling sort of person, but there is a point to all the nitpickery.

So yeah.  Wanted to rant.  Rant back at me.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Just an Announcement

Hey y'all.  As you've doubtlessly noticed, I haven't updated Hero of the Month for a while.  I'm pretty starved for inspiration on it right now.  I mean, I had some good ideas, but they weren't thought out completely and my muse is silent on the topic.  One of the things you have to do as a writer is figure out what you can and can't finish, and this is one of those things.  The whole deal with trying to do each story in the period of only one month for some reason was too irritating for me.

The next story I do up here, and I will do another one, will be one I feel a lot less limited on.  Crap, the only point I really felt inspired for was for Milyung, though I had a really great idea for August and October.  The trouble with that was, I have no clue what to do for June and July, and my plot point for May wasn't thought through well enough.  I honestly write better when I feel less time pressure.

Ha, which is why I'm so stressed right now.  Lol.  I'm trying to do a lot of cram writing for my Mega Man fanfiction for the month of May, as I want to start updating this story weekly up in June.  I want to have this more or less in editing phase by June so that I can work on something I do want to get published and make actual money from.  I gotta eat too.

So what does that mean for this blog?  Well, I've got at least one more Mega Man music review left, and that's mostly done.  I've also managed to put into words my intangible reason for disliking The King's Speech, and that'll be up sometime soon, as soon as I'm sure the Chinese government isn't messing around with my laptop (I'm on the parents' computer now).  No, seriously.  There was this program with Chinese figures on it running on my computer, and the last time I shut down my computer it said that other computers were logged into mine.  Seriously, computer people, tell me what the deal with that is.

I have another story idea, this one not really put into any timetable.  I find that it's easier for me to write for some reason the closer I am to my subconscious brain.  Consciously choosing to do a story is harder for me.  Unless this conscious idea has lots of subconscious backing, it's not gonna work.  In any case, this blog is not going to die, and hopefully I'll post more writer stuff as it goes along.  Establish something so I can actually have a real theme for this dang thing.

Anywhoo, talk to y'all later.  Bye!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Nitpickery -- Science Fiction

Hey y'all.  I just wanted to get nerdy for a minute.   You know how everybody like to compare Star Wars and Star Trek?  I sort of disagree with this notion.  I mean, it's fun and nerdy and all to talk about which is better, but at the end of the day these two universes aren't really that comparable.  They serve two different purposes and reach two different audiences, similar though they might be.

So what's the deal with them being uncomparable?  Well, just think about it.  Here you have Star Trek, which is forever going on about the idealization of the future and how people should deal with moral conflict.  It includes a lot of technobabble and histories.  On the other side of the coin is Star Wars, which is about becoming a hero, following the story of adventurers, and awesome ship and laser sword battles.

They're really two different things.  If someone says they like Star Wars better, then this person is action oriented.  Star Trek?  Thought oriented.  Another difference between the two is their treatment of spirituality.  Wars sees the universe as very spiritual, and no matter how sciencey things get, there is always the mystical and magical Force that makes all the planets go round.  Trek tends to ignore spirituality, in one sense.  All myths are nothing more than myths, and while certain barbaric traditions are treated with respect (vulcan mating rituals, Klingon pain stick thing, bizarre bring-Spock-back-to-life ceremonies), no spiritual creature, god, or demon is treated as anything more than somebody's legend.  Even the Q are nothing more than superior beings that feel like they have the right to judge all lesser species for some reason.

I should like to point out that in saying "Star Wars", I am only referencing the three original movies.  I categorically deny any and all sequels to these three movies.  Go to youtube and search for Red Letter Media if you want to know why.  Actually, I really do like those old shows that had these Ewoks and little kids running around...haven't seen them in years.  I won't deny the existence of those, just the prequels and that animated thingermajigger.  Be aware.

Poor, poor Star Wars.  Brutally murdered by your own creator.  It really makes me wonder how much George Lucas actually did make the original ones.  I mean, in the prequels a lot of things went wrong.  None of the actors do a good job, you don't know who Darth Maul is or why he's fighting, the love story between Anakin and Padme sucks, the dialogue falls flat, and the battle scenes are so crowded and messy that no one really knows what the crap is going on.  Red Letter Media goes into all of this with stern detail, but I wanted to mention it briefly.  Oh, while I'm at it, I'll warn you that RLM makes tasteless jokes at times that can be really disturbing.

This isn't really on topic, but I'd just like to mention that I don't really get all the hate for Jar Jar Binks.  I mean, he's lame and gets too much screentime, but the films have so many other flaws, it's just pointless to mention him.  I guess because he's so overt he takes a lot of the blame for the suckitude of the prequels.  People notice subconsciously all the other problems, but take it out on the obvious guy.

The single most devastating thing Lucas did to Star Wars was explain the Force.  That was the knife in Star Wars' chest, and all the rest is just turning the blade.  Mitochlorians?  The Force is microscopic thingamadoodles that infest people?  What the crap?  Star Wars is spiritual, magical.  It's not about science, at least not to a larger extent.  Explaining it is bad.

Star Trek, on the other hand, is all about explanation.  In the original film cantina scene in Star Wars, the costume and props guys just hauled out a bunch of random costumes and puppets to serve as aliens.  We don't know any of those species, and there's no need for us to.  Not so for the Trekkers (yes, it's Trekkers and not Trekkies).  They have races with their own histories, complex plotlines, and a massive plot that extends from the original series all the way to Voyager.   Technology is complex, and so are all their dialogues.

Let me briefly explain the history of Star Trek, which naturally has far more material than Wars.  It all started with the original series, a cheesy and happy show that came out in 1966.  It failed its five year mission and only lasted three seasons.  After several years of nothing, there was a short-lived attempt at an animated show, which didn't last long.  Star Trek: the Next Generation takes place a century later, and came out at about this time.  As this series went on, the original cast started to produce films, making Star Treks 1-6.  While the show was cheesy and took a bit to catch on, the films were actually very good (besides 5) and were the things that first encouraged me as a kid to like Star Trek.  And then I saw some original series episodes and understood fully why Paramount was always trying to cancel the original series throughout its run.

Gene Roddenberry died shortly after Star Trek 6, and this began to mark the end of Star Trek.  Sure, there was life in the series left.  They made Babylon 5 (regarded as a flop), Deep Space Nine (pretty good, but too dark-spirited for the Star Trek feel), Voyager (preeeetentious), and a few Next Generation movies that RLM gives his harsh treatment to in the same vein as his Star Wars reviews.

Then there's the latest Star Trek, that completely betrays everything we know and love about Trek: they're very gratuitous in killings, it's more individual focused, the bad guys are mostly unexplained and entirely worthless, the plot is full of cliches, Uhura is too skinny and kind of trashy (maybe this is just me, but in this role Zoe Saldana seemed to come across as any given generic white girl from California),

Mostly, the morality of the two are different.  Star Wars focuses more on the individual.  As an audience member, you follow along with the brave but inexperienced Luke, the determined Princess Leia trying to save her allies, and the brutish but dashing Han Solo in his quest for cash.   While the characters in Star Trek are generally likable, the feel of the show concerns the survival of species, the unity of all races, and the quest for humanity to purge itself of its "barbarian ways" (the worldly version of what is barbarian versus what barbarianism really means is a conflict I'll get into one day).

In other words, Star Trek has different ideals in mind.  Star Wars, I'm sure, was produced more to entertain and excite people with its laser swords and fun universe.  Trek, on the other hand, was produced by Gene Roddenberry for the specific purpose of improving the world's outlook on life.  It's suppose to touch on our inner desires for exploration and "unity of mankind" to help us create a better future.  Thus, Trek and Wars aren't that comparable.  They're in different catagories.

Now, what you can compare Star Trek to is the British science fiction series Dr. Who.  Dr. Who has run since 1963, and follows along the story of a human looking alien named "The Doctor" who runs around time and space in a flying police box (it's bigger on the inside) solving various problems and stopping various bad guys throughout his adventures.  He comes from the planet Gallifrey and is of the species Time Lord, long lived people who regenerate when they die.  They can do this up to 12 times, barring some effort to cheat death, which has been done before by one of the villains known as The Master.  This is the gimmick used to allow them to continue the series with different actors and still keep the plotline going.

What makes this a closer match to Star Trek, despite the fact that the police box (known as the TARDIS) is a  time vessel rather than a space vessel, is its heart.  Like Trek, it concerns itself with technobabble and pop morality.  Like Trek, in its earlier years it actually tried to be more scientfic.  And also like Trek, it has lost its way.

I'm not sure right at the moment which one has lost its way more, but yeah, they both have lost something of their original spirit.  In the case of Trek, the loss was very slow.  When Gene Roddenberry died, bits his idealistic futureview still remained with people still working on the universe.  However, over time Star Trek has become muddle, particularly since Trek nerds have been demonized and no one in popular culture seems too concerned about it.  Also, there is no current television show going on with Trek.

The last movie with JJ Abrams...guh.  I mean, I knew Hollywood was dying, but dang, Trek is supposed to be filled with nerds that can actually write.  Add to that Abram's general lack of understanding in matters of the human mind, and buh.  Red Letter Media did a review of this movie as well, citing all the things Abrams and company did wrong with this film...and then says he actually likes it.  He compared it to the music genre rock and roll, saying that it's just different and something to be appreciated by the masses.

I think that's an insult to rock.  Most of the characters in the newer Trek were bland and boring.  You can tell me that this movie was supposed to be the one that sets up Abram's franchise by setting up the characters, but even though we were staring at these guys for two hours (the Kirk character in particular) we really don't learn anything about them.  Kirk's character does stuff, but is merely a young stereotype running around and getting beat up by everyone and their moms.

The young Spock would have been okay, except that they had to go the extremely predictable route and have him be the half-human oddity without really adding anything of worth to the character.  The scene where his schoolmates are making fun of him is like a slightly Vulcan-ish parody of the Hollywood high school stereotype.  I will, however, say that Spock's character problems come less from acting and more from writing.  I feel that the actor did pretty good, and with better plot he could be a good Spock.

I was actually surprised at Karl Urban for being so good, like everyone else.  In other movies he tended to suffer from "reading lines syndrome" where he just sounds like he's reading, particularly in Lord of the Rings.  His character disappears after a while.  It's like the writers went, "okay, Doctor McCoy showed up and people saw him, so let's move on to the next thing now".  Sheesh.  How about letting him have a real part that actually does stuff and has depth?

They did this with Sulu, Chekov, and a little bit Uhura.  Scotty's part was a proper length for an engine guy who comes in at the middle of the film.  Sulu swings a katana (hello!  Sulu's supposed to be a fencer!) before disappearing, and Chekov does a really bad accent before he goes away.  Apparently the actor Anton Yelchin really is Russian, but you wouldn't believe it listening to him.  They actually tried to give Uhura more plot and skills than her original series counterpart, but these guys are nobodies that I guess the writers just wanted to get out of the way.  We don't actually learn anything new about them.

Also, I wish they would have hired a different actor for Sulu.  It's really hard to take an actor seriously when they're best known for being in a stoner movie.  This next comment may be weird, but...he's too white looking.  Maybe it's a lighting problem on the set, but I always loved how nice and dark George Takei's skin was on the original show.  Asian people are really beautiful to me, and it's annoying that the Asian guy on the ship looks like a white guy.  Isn't this supposed to be an interracial cast?

I'm gonna make a weirder comment on Uhura.  Zoe Saldana has a huge case of boring white woman disorder.  It's quite common in Hollywood these days.  This disorder generally has the biggest effect on white or black women.  For some reason Hispanic women generally avoid it.

What is this disorder, you ask?  It's a creation of Hollywood sexists and feminists (hence feminist stereotypes 1 and 2 that I've mentioned before) that basically says there is only one way to be beautiful.  In my opinion, there are as many ways to be beautiful as there are women in the world.  Skin color, hair color, body shape, and culture all determine what makes a particular women gorgeous.  Certain colors and shapes look better on certain people.  It's a matter of individuality.

Hollywood has it stuck in its head that for a woman to be beautiful, she must conform to the standard of a white woman.  Not just any white woman (we Irish are not in the running, lemme tell you), but the scientifically determined most boring white woman in existence.  Many women, celebrities or not, fall for this flawed belief and try to make themselves conform.  It effects celebrities the most, as they have to be "beautiful" on a fantasy scale.  Hence horrors like girls starving themselves to death and black woman bleaching their skin.  Come on, black people, there's nothing at all wrong with your skin.  All it means is that you can wear better colors than white people.  You know what color I look good in?  Brown.  No, not rich chocolate brown, but dull, dusty brown.  Y'all get to wear richer reds and yellows.  I get pale yellow at best.  I'd look so dang weird in stronger yellows. Oh well, at least I have green.

It's not in looks, but personalities too.  Women in movies have to be either Feminist Stereotype #1 (women have no flaws and are better than men and are boring), or Feminist Stereotype #2 (I'm actually an insult to my gender because I objectify us but I'm going to pretend that since my character beats everyone up or outsmarts everyone I'm actually helping women's dignity).

Zoe's's actually a little of both.  Nichelle Nichols, the original actor for Uhura, was very black and very beautiful (FS1 and FS2 are mostly modern concoctions).  They didn't feel the excessive need to make her look like any of the likewise beautiful white women around the show. Sure, maybe the part wasn't as big as it should have been, but at least when you did see her she got to be herself.

I give props to Abrams for letting the new Uhura be more talented with language, but other than that....ew.  He wrote a very weird and not at all Uhura character.  This one...well, it's pretty much summed up in the scene where she insists that Spock let her on the Enterprise only to have it turn out that Spock is her boyfriend.  It's like the character is struggling between being an independent woman stereotype or a woman who's too clingy to her dude.  It's just weird.

This is completely beside the point, but I was kinda hoping that Spock would get with Nurse Chapel.  It never happened on the original show, even though Chapel really liked him.  That's just a nerdy complaint, and not a genuine criticism, though.

Speaking of Uhura getting on the Enterprise in a ghetto way, what about everyone else?  Sulu and Chekov are young nobodies who got really lucky, McCoy ends up in charge of the medical staff because the guy above him died, Scotty gets found completely by luck and invents a new way of teleporting just to get there, and Kirk...his was the worst.  First, McCoy smuggles him onto the ship, then the captain makes him third in command on a whim, then after being dumped on a planet he randomly finds old Spock, randomly runs into the guy that can get him back, and then does a stupid thing to manipulate young Spock and take over.  I can only suspend my belief so many times, movie.

Wow, I really went on a rant.  Okay, let's talk about Dr. Who now.  I'll try not to rant.  Okay, so the original Dr. Who show ran from '63 to '89, using up seven doctors in the process.  The eighth doctor only did a movie, in which all of his people die off in the great time wars.  He is the lone survivor.  After that, the eventually made a new series in the '00s, one that is currently on the air.

Dr. Who has always been pretty wonky, so at the end of the day I have to give it a little more room than Star Trek, particularly since I know less about it.  However, the new series went a much different direction than the original.  At the first, they never really showed the Doctor being romantic or even eating regular food.  It betrayed the concept of the Doctor that they had going.  Now, everything from episode one of the new series is all about romance.

You'll forgive me a bit of bitterness, please, if I say that romance is best used as a spice rather than a main plot.  No offense to people who disagree, but nowadays it's way overdone and it leads to moral quandries, cheap plots, and burns out a series really quickly when there isn't enough other substance to the storyline.  I'm a writer nerd, I know these things.  Besides, all writers have to be careful about their works so that they don't end up making their books turn out like romance novels.  I write over in the Mega Man fanfiction part of, and you wouldn't believe how many stories are just really lame soap opera pairings, yaoi, shojo ai, and all that other stuff I'm nowhere near curious enough to know much about.  It's gotten to the point where it's a lot of sex fantasy, and this is especially weird since most of the characters there are robots.  Substance, people, substance!

In the interest of not being too ranty, I'll just try to sum it up.  I really liked season 1 of Dr. Who, and even in season 2 when David Tennant became the doctor, I was all on board.  It really annoyed me that all these chicks (Madame du Pompadour especially) kept flirting with him even though his romance situation with companion Rose was actually pretty cute.

Tennant was really fun during the second season, but as soon as Rose disappeared from his life at the end of the season, he stopped smiling, and the show devolved into melodramatic, "let's stab the doctor in the heart as many times as we can" plot.  I swear, there were like two episodes total in both of these seasons where he doesn't make a dumb emo kid face.  Some depressing episodes are fine, but sheesh, this used to be a fun adventure show.

To make it worse, they kept having chicks flirt with him, though thankfully this was turned down, except in the case of next companion Martha.  I might blame the actress a little, but really it's the writers' fault that she turned out to throw herself at the doctor even though it's painfully obvious he isn't ready for any relationship.  Worst of all, Martha was training to be a doctor.  I expected her to be a lot smarter and keep up with the doctor better than Rose.  Didn't happy.

Now, if you're a doctor, you're the sort of person that's willing to (1) spend a lot of time working, (2) not see your family so much, (3) put up with more gore and gross stuff than the average person, and (4) learn to look for the source of the problem.  All of these naturally go along with the job.  Trouble is, Martha turns out to be a Rose Tyler analogue.  She comes at everything from a more naiive perspective and doesn't appear to be much more intelligent than Rose.  They don't even give her a lot of doctor stuff to do.

Season 3 ends with a horribly bad "I do believe in fairies!" moment where the doctor is healed of hyper-aging by everyone on earth just thinking about him.  That pretty much doomed Doctor Who's next season.  The Christmas special alone showed every single problem that developed in the series: needless deaths, the nearest chick falling for him, implausible disasters, and "victories" that amount to maybe one or two people surviving.

The first episode was actually kinda fun, with him meeting Donna again and her joining him.  Not to be!  It became "Adventures of Emo Kid and the Chick that At Least Tried a Little!".  My favorite episode of the season is actually Turn Left, which David Tennant is barely in and Donna spends the whole episode finding out what would have happened if she never met the doctor.  She at least was hilarious and tenaciously stubborn in a really depressing situation.

Tennant's regeneration into the next Doctor, Matt Smith, was so dumb.  He didn't have to say goodbye to every dang person in the series.  That just ruined what should have been a really touching moment.  But I'm glad emo boy is gone, and I'm glad there's new writers.  I'm not particularly impressed with Matt Smith, particularly because he just seems like a less expressive version of Tennant, but I'm reserving judgement until I see more of him.

So, in any case, yes, all three of these science fiction series are far removed from the original vision that was had for them.  Star Wars used to be about spirituality and individuals, and now it's about selling toys and dumb dialogue (I hear tell the games are good though).  Trek used to be about working together to create a better future, but I understand why this one dissolved into a boring, generic space adventure thing: humans are naturally a lot more sinful than Roddenberry believed we are.  Dr. Who used to be about science and explaining it to younger people, and it has since become...modern.  Trite.  A little trashy.

Can these series be saved?  Not Star Wars, not unless fans suddenly decide that they want to do a fan-based version of the prequels which they will count as canon.  I'm totally in on writing for that, by the way.  Trek might be saved, if we do something about JJ Abrams.  Dr. Who probably has the best potential right now, but who knows what will happen to it?

This is my nitpick: science fiction, be about science again.  I miss you.