TL;DR: The Problem With Big Books

This may make me sound like a traitor to readers everywhere, but I am generally not a fan of big books, specifically ones that exceed 450 pages in length.

That’s not to say I don’t like any large books. One of my favorite books of all time, Gone With The Wind, is nearly 1,000 pages long. However, in recent years, it seems to me most of the thicker novels I’ve suffered through have been long purely for the sake of being long.

Unfortunately, I believe I know the reason for this.

Across the literary community, there is this presumption that if a book is large and takes ages to read then said book is deep and important and the reader should take it seriously. After all, so many classical works of literature boast a heavy word count.

“Why use one word when you can use twenty, my good man?” say the classic writers, smoking their pipes and not raising their ten plus children. “Why not add in a stock character and detail their entire lives even though they will ultimately have no baring on the plot whatsoever?”

I’m not saying I’m incapable of being patient and waiting it out, but you got to give me something book.

Don’t string me along for 300 plus pages just because I’ve become invested enough in the plot and characters to wait.

Don’t put in pages worth of padding just so you can disappoint me with a predictable twist and cardboard villains.

One of the most aggravating reads I’ve ever sat through was The Map of Time by Felix J. Palma, a hefty 720 page monster that took me over a month to finish. I stayed with it for so long because it had an excellent premise which the author got to…eventually. But in the meantime the reader had to slog through hundreds of pages of extraneous material that had no impact on the story at all.

Honestly, I have no idea how it got past an editor’s red pen of doom. The main character doesn’t even show up until the novel is almost halfway over. How do you even get away with that?!

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Then there was The Magus by John Fowles which was the most dense, pretentious, and mind-numbingly dull book I’ve ever read. Getting past the annoyingly self-congratulating attitudes of the main characters, the readers is subjected to page upon page of backstory that can be summed up in a paragraph or two.

(Sidenote: If you’re having difficulty sleeping, listen to the audiobook for The Magus on Youtube. I haven’t slept this heavily in years.)

That’s not to say a story should never be long, but there has to be some criteria, wouldn’t you agree?

I’ll answer my own rhetorical question with a non-rhetorical yes.

Here are a handful of justifications for writing a large novel:

  1. It takes place over the course of many years/months.
  2. There are multiple characters whose prospectives help increase the depth and overall quality of the story.
  3.  The story requires time devoted to explaining the world and how it operates to further engross the reader and create a feeling of realness.
  4. Extra time is needed to tie up loose ends.
  5. It is creating an atmosphere that will help with the climax’s pay-off.

If none of the reasons above are applicable, then I have no interest in reading it. I’m sorry, but there are hundreds of books out there that I could be enjoying and I don’t want to waste my time with a story that just wants to meander on forever.

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Unpopular Opinion: Outrage Culture Conditioned Me To Not Care About Anything

Just as a heads up, this is as close to addressing political issues as I am likely to get on this blog outside of discussions involving freedom of expression. The only reason I’m even bothering typing up this post is because, as bloggers, may of us have lives that are saturated by media.

Hell, most writers in general have pretty strong ties to the internet so, in a way, it is in keeping with my niche audience.

If you squint.

Getting to the point:

This may be more of a reflection of me and my grown (or degradation depending on how you look at it) as a person, but I’ve found myself becoming so overwhelmed by lists of people I’m supposed to be angry with that it’s difficult to muster the same type of emotion.

Every other day, Twitter tallies up an extensive list of people we are supposed to hate now. Jennifer Lawrence rubbed her butt on an idol, some comedian said Donald Trump may not actually be Hitler, someone called someone a bad name in the heat of the moment.

The next morning, HuffPo and various other media outlets are writing detailed, peer-reviewed articles about why this person needs to wear a crown of thorns and carry the instrument of their execution on their backs while we throw rotten tomatoes at them.

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At first, I was game. If someone calls a woman a whore on a podcast, they should be fired. If a man sends a tweet with sexual overtones that person should be called out….but this has gone on for weeks…months….years even.

And it has to be said, you guys, I can only hate a person I’ve never met so much. I have a finite amount energy to give towards anyone I will likely never encounter in my entire existence.

There are so many people in this world that I want to save my hatred for: people who don’t use their turn signals, that cashier that always tries to make me sign up for a rewards card whenever I go shopping, people on Medicare, etc.

I am not a negative person so I only have so much scorn to give. I don’t have the energy to waste it on people who, at the end of the day, did things that are, by and large, inconsequential in the grand scheme of things.

I know what outrage culture is designed to do. It’s meant to weed out people who defy social norms and try to force them through public shaming to be a better person.

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However, what outrage culture doesn’t take into account is that people are highly adaptable. If you expose them enough times to something, they stop caring about it as much. It’s like violence in various forms of media. While it doesn’t necessarily make us more violent as people, it does desensitize us to viewing it.

It seems to be the same for outrageous behavior.

A few days ago, Youtuber and self-made millionaire PewDiePie said the n-word on one of his live-streams and nobody seems to care. Sure, a few people have made videos on it either reprimanding him or defending his speech as a “mere slip of the tongue”, nevertheless, this sort of remark would normally have people screaming from the rafters. However, it didn’t make nearly as much of an impact as it should have.

Many will likely credit this as a product of the rise of “white supremacy” in America, but I think it has more to do with the rise of outrage culture.

I think the general population are just bored of it at this point.

Myself included.

It’s not for want of trying, you understand. I read and reread articles, watch and analyze video clips, trying in desperation to feel even a tingling of rage. Nevertheless, I can’t muster up the same feelings of indignation that used to be part of my daily internet experience.

There are still people who are willing to fight the good fight from behind their desktops, adding their tweets to the pile of those declaring their outrage at (insert name here) for doing (insert activity here). But many of us have grown weary of this cycle and it is a cycle as it follows the same predictable pattern each time. The offender is shamed, the offender apologizes, the accusers don’t accept the apology and continue a smear campaign, right up until the event is no longer timely and everyone stops giving a crap.

Then it’s on to the next poor sod convicted of wrong-think.

Sometimes the outrage is reasonable and justified, sometimes it’s not.

Regardless, I think it will take some time before I will be able to hate again.

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Unpopular Opinion: “Death Note” The Netflix Film Wasn’t THAT Bad

I know everyone is in shock about this but Netflix created a live-action film adaptation of beloved anime series and manga Death Note….and it was not well received.

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It was weird, it was convoluted, and it completely fell apart at the seams.

…….but….

I don’t think it’s nearly as bad as people think it is.

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Okay! Okay! Calm down! I never said it was good. It was far from good. It was a colossal disaster as a film as well as an adaptation. Things were unnecessarily added, the crux of the story was taken away, and characters were butchered for the sake of “plot” *coughLcough*

But here’s the weird thing….

I actually think this film could have been salvageable if they had done but one thing:

Get as far away as the original source material as possible.

Yeah. Okay, so that seems like it defeats the purpose of making an adaptation doesn’t it? Well, here’s the thing.

Any attempt at making an anime is going to be dead on arrival as the expectations for anime and live-action film are completely different.

Anime works based on its own convoluted logic and the translation of that to screen is…not a smooth one. Most movie watchers go into film with a certain level of expectation. They want what they are seeing to make sense.

Anime has it’s own rules in that it has no rules. Very often times certain plot points, physics, and general progression do not make sense. Anime is like a fever dream and, generally, it tries to appeal more to a person’s emotions rather than their intellect. Or, at least that’s been my experience.

Going back to adapting Death Note, I noticed something rather peculiar about this film. That being the farther they got from the original source material, the better the movie became.

Not good. Just…better.

I’m not talking about Light being your stereotypical bullied kid or the weird stylistic feel this film has, or whatever the hell happened to L.

I mean when they focused more on the psychology of the person wielding the Death Note. As someone who really enjoyed Death Note when it first came out and spent hours in bookstores reading the manga, what held my interest wasn’t Light’s character, it was the game of cat-and-mouse between him and L.

I don’t dislike Light as a character there just…isn’t much to him outside of being Kira. He was never your average kid. He was a super genius that was bored with his life because he was so much better than everyone at everything.

I know I’ll aggravate a lot of people by saying this but…he was essentially an Evil Gary-Stu.

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With the Light for Netflix’s Death Note, we were able to see how the Death Note could affect a normal, down-to-earth person. Rather than see him go from being a bored genius to Wrathful Death God in 2.4 seconds, we actually saw some character progression.

It isn’t until the final leg of the movie that he truly turns into the evil genius puppet master that we all know and love.

I have to say that when the focus was on the power struggle between Light and his girlfriend Mia (Misa in the manga/anime), it was actually pretty interesting.

Rather than being a total air-headed bimbo like she has been in other incarnations, Misa is the instigator. She’s the one that constantly manipulates Light and tries to make him go further and further. Considering how annoying I always found Misa, I thought this was a welcome change. They work off of each other rather than Mia just being a pawn in Light’s game.

That being said, they should have scrapped the idea of making this an adaptation of the original Death Note. What they should have done was create this in the world of Death Note following the fall of Kira. Don’t toy with the characters from the original anime. Just get a cast of all new characters. Hell, you changed them so their bordering on unrecognizable anyway. Might as well go that extra step.

We would be able to forgo the annoying white-washing aspect of this as well.

The concept of the Death Note is a fascinating one and it could work outside of Light’s story arc. Like I said, I personally find it far more interesting to see how a normal teenager, one whose sense of justice is underdeveloped due to his age, would react to being given ultimate power.

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What are the ethical implications of killing criminals? How does having that level of power effect a normal individual?

Here’s how I would have written it if I had been given the script:

A normal, albeit troubled, teenage boy stumbles across a Death Note and discovers, through the power of experimentation, that he is able to control when and how people die. The rules are self-explanatory and written down in the book so he doesn’t need a Death God explaining to him how it goes.

The police are growing a bit suspicious about the deaths, but only one detective in particular seems to believe the deaths are actually linked.

In the meantime the MC’s confidence in himself begins to grown and he is able to win the heart of one of his classmates. Through their courtship, he learns that she has been the victim of a crime and he decides to give her the option of taking the perpetrator’s life.

She uses the Death Note and she is able to witness herself how the instrument of death works. They decide from that point forward that they will work together in order to make the world a better place. They begin slow, but inevitably events snowball. The pair become bolder in their actions and the police are made aware that something is amiss and are able to link it to a series of murders that took place in Japan years ago.

The game becomes all the more intricate and the couple find themselves doing things such as killing innocents and engaging in other illegal activities in order to continue on being gods of what they hope to be their brave new world.

That’s just one idea. There’s really a ton of things you could do with the concept of a Death Note.

So..no..this was not a good movie. Not by a long shot. Nevertheless, I didn’t hate it as much as I expected to.

It’s like Kenny Rogers said “the secret is knowing what to throw away and knowing what to keep.”

And, unfortunately, the team behind this flop didn’t seem to know either of these things.

How Drake and Josh Are Destroying My Novel

I never thought procrastination would be so simple, but I found a way.

I found a way.

I set out  working on chapter seven of my story and somehow found myself plunging into the ether of pop culture sludge.

For literally no reason at all, I began looking into the Drake and Josh controversy.

In case you don’t know what I’m talking about, Drake Bell found out Josh Peck was getting married via social media instead of through the man himself. Outraged that he wasn’t contacted about it, Drake immediately lapsed into insanity and began berating Josh through Twitter instead of….you know…actually talking to the guy.

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Naturally, the internet led the charge against Josh, decrying him for committing such a treacherous act against his on-screen brother and real life bff. How dare he not invite his “brotha” to such a momentous occasion? Didn’t he realize we’re all watching him?

Memes were created as effigies against the traitor. His Facebook and Twitter feed were bombarded with hateful comments.

Good news: it appears they have since made up as evidenced by a recently posted vlog by Josh Peck.

Bad news: I apparently care about this sh*t.

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I loved Drake and Josh as a kid, but they are real people with real lives that are none of my business. Why did I take it upon myself to do research on this subject? Why do I care so much about people I will never meet and (in spite of giving me a few hours worth of laughs) really didn’t contribute that much to my life?

It’s amazing the mental gymnastics I will do just to avoid a rough writing session. That’s really what it comes down to: Not wanting to write a difficult chapter

And my mind will do anything–question anything—if it gets me off the hook.

I don’t even want to talk about all the WatchMojo videos I’ve watched in an attempt to drain my evening of writing time.

Oh crap, I just spent three hours watching clips from Carrie and analyzing how Sissy Spacek’s portrayal of the main character was much better than the one from the 2013 movie. 

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Look at those dead eyes! 

Oh well. Guess I don’t have time to write now. 

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Then I lie awake it bed, feeling hopelessly guilty that I thwarted what few hours I have on this earth watching crappy five minutes videos, caught in my own web of self-defeatism, when I could be contributing to the ever-growing nest of culture that is the arts and humanities.

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It doesn’t matter how many cups of coffee I throw back or how much atmospheric music I play, even Enya can’t save me from my bad habits so pervasive in my mind that they have decided to colonize as many lobes as possible.

All I can hope for is that, eventually, I will strike the right cord. The chapter I am currently working on I have rewritten about sixteen times. No hyperbole.

However, I’ve decided (for the fourth week in a row) that this will be my weekend. This will be the week that I finish that damn chapter. This time I won’t be distracted by WatchMojo or watch the Stephen King It trailer for the twentieth time even though I despise remakes and, after closer examination, have almost no desire to see it.

I suppose there is nothing for it.

All I can do is look my story dead in the eye and say…

Eh…maybe next week.

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My Emotionally Abusive Relationship with Daphne Du Maurier

I can say with unshakeable certainty that Rebecca is one of the best horror novels I’ve ever read. It wasn’t an action-packed gore-fest like many books of the same genre, but in my mind that’s what makes it one of the greats.

It’s a British novel positively dripping with atmosphere and dramatic tension with an excellent pay-off.

It’s for this reason that I’ve found many other of Du Maurier’s works to be…less than stellar.

After reading Rebecca, I thought I had discovered an unsung hero of classic literature. Why had I gone so many years without knowing who Daphne Du Maurier is? Why had I been deprived of knowing her name?

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I looked farther into her works and rejoiced to find My Cousin Rachel, a novel that promised more atmospheric English countrysides, three-dimensional characters, an intriguing storyline and a gut-punch ending…..

Well, three out of four isn’t bad….

You see, the more you read Daphne Du Maurier, the more it seems that you run into this problem. The woman can write. She is a wonder at creating haunting environments, interesting characters and working up mysteries.

The problem is, more often than not, her endings tend to be woefully underwhelming. And when they aren’t, they’re just frigging weird.

One such example is Don’t Look Now wherein a couple that has just lost their child decide to go on holiday to Italy. While there they meet a pair of elderly twins, one of which purports to be psychic and prophesies doom for John, the main character. Well, the story keeps you on the tips of your toes in true Du Maurier fashion. Red-herring after red-herring is thrown at you, Then…the climax and……!

He’s murdered by a serial-killing midget…..

A serial….killing…midget….

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Kay, that was f*cking weird, but the next ones gotta be….!

Okay, guy is randomly murdered and random weird greek symbolism that doesn’t…really relate to the climax…

Okay, this next one will….! Okay, massive homophobia-

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In spite of the many times she’s disappointed me, I just can’t give up on her.

She’s just good enough at what she does that she is able to draw me in again and again. But those endings…man, those endings kill me. And not in a good way.

I just don’t understand how someone could have such a strong character and personality, only to demure when it matters the most. She makes all of these promises and she never keeps them. She beguiles me with gorgeous imagery and diction, only to leave me crumpled on the floor like a used tissue.

Why? Does she feel too much pressure to perform? Am I more invested than she is? Has she just moved on to bigger and better things?

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Why, Daphne? Why didn’t Rachel just kill Philip when she had the chance? It doesn’t make sense, Daphne.

I’m currently working on Jamaica Inn and I’m fretful that I’ll drudge through it and experience the same kind of disappointment again. But I’m just so curious….I have to know what happens.

Maybe this time will be different. Maybe she will have that jarring jump-out-of-your-pants ending I’ve been waiting for. I mean, it’s not like all her endings were that, bad right? Maybe I was being too hard on her. Perhaps I’m the one to blame for my high expectations.

I’ll give you another shot, Daphne.

I can’t quit you.

Man, The 13th Doctor’s A Woman: My Super Late Thoughts On The First Female Doctor

This reaction is so late that it borders on irrelevance, however, I wrote a majority of it the week it was announced so I wanted to publish it anyway. 

So…yeah…here you go:

^ What happens when you leave a professional media major alone on the weekend.

So, in spite of the super subtle *cough* hints from the show-runner that The Doctor could be a woman like-

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and-

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I think many fans were still surprised by the announcement that the 13th Doctor is going to be a woman.

Surprised and…perhaps a bit perturbed.

When I discovered Jodie Whittaker was going to be the Doctoro numero trece, I went through a whole roster of emotion. The first and most prominent one being–

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This was the most random casting choice I’d ever heard of. Sure, I knew Chris Chibnail had worked with her on Broadchurch but…..the bitchy mother from Broadchurch?! The bitchy mother from Broadchurch is going to be The Doctor?!

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However, the longer I thought about it, the more this idea seemed like a good one. I don’t know much about Jodie Whittaker, but I know from what I’ve seen of her that she can act.

Okay. I’ll give this a shot.

Then, as I thought about it even more, I realized that this could potentially be the best thing that has happened to Doctor Who in years.

I already addressed this in posts previously, but, no matter how many people insist this show will last forever, it probably won’t. And the surest way to make sure that it suffers a premature death is by continuing to do the same crap over and over as it has done unapologetically for the last six years.

Making The Doctor a woman is the surest way to wipe the slate clean, to show us a new angle and convince us to care. I couldn’t be arsed if The Doctor thinks he’s a good person anymore. I don’t care if the universe is in danger. It’s in danger every frigging episode. I need to be persuaded to give a crap again.

This is new. This gives us a completely new color pallet to work with. This is something we’ve never seen before. And considering this is a show that is nearing its 54th birthday, that’s saying something.

I’m invested now.

I care.

Aaaaaaaaand now it’s time to address the controversy-

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As with any Doctor, the casting choice has left the fanbase divided. However, unlike in Doctors past, this one spurs controversy for a completely different reason.

No points for guessing why.

Now, considering the tongue baths I just gave to making the choice to hire a woman as the starring role, my opinion on the opposition to The Doctor being a woman might surprise you.

When people say they don’t want a female Doctor… I kind of get where they’re coming from.

Some people might not want a woman to play The Doctor simply due to their sexist perspectives, nonetheless, I don’t believe that this is the majority.

I’m willing to give most the benefit of a doubt because many people who didn’t particularly like Capaldi’s Doctor (a.k.a people like me) were often pigeonholed as being ageist and shallow.

Oh, you don’t like the 12th Doctor? Well, he’s old so that must mean you don’t like him because you can’t imagine him as a boyfriend anymore. Go back to watching Twilight. 

It’s a lazy argument and–while it was justified in some cases–most of the time it was just used as a scapegoat so people didn’t have to defend the poor direction and bad writing choices used when it came to the 12th Doctor.

But the people that are opposed to Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor haven’t even seen her in action yet. They’re basing their opinions of her entirely on her gender!

Yeah but the BBC kind of packaged her that way.

All we saw her do was peal off her hood and walk towards the TARDIS. We didn’t hear her say anything cool, interact with companions, or anything.

It’s obvious that the main focus was meant to be on the fact that The Doctor is a female.

I could see how someone could interpret this negatively as Doctor Who has become more brazen in recent years with its political opinions and, whether you agree with the messages they espouse or not, Doctor Who is generally pretty bad at telling political stories.

Most attempts come across as ham-fisted, choosing to paint people with opposing ideologies as inherently evil or stupid (usually both). What’s worse is the stories themselves often can’t stand alone without the context of current events and are usually boring or convoluted, lacking the gravitas that the subjects they are addressing deserve. Some may argue that the over simplification is due to Doctor Who being a kid’s show, but then I would have to point out that this show has also discussed mass genocide so…yeah. The argument that nuance is too mature for this show is a bit moot.

Sylvester McCoy recently bragged in an interview that during his tenure, the show mocked Margret Thatcher mercilessly, creating plots with a political edge designed to protest her and her policies.

What happened after that?

Oh yeah.

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Regardless, I honestly think this could potentially be a great decision, provided they go at it from just the right angle. Some claim that her gender is completely irrelevant, but I think it’s a topic that needs to be addressed.

In spite of what many claim, there are differences between men and women, both physiological and psychological, and I think it would be a great idea to explore some of those concepts. I’m not saying they should make stereotypical jokes about women at her expense or that we must constantly bring attention to the fact that she is no longer a male, but since The Doctor has never been a woman before this is a great opportunity to explore the concept of gender and how it affects a person’s worldview or how the world perceives that individual.

There are so many ways to do this right that they just have to make a good character out of this.

I have a lot of confidence in Chris Chibnall as a character writer so I have faith that he isn’t just using this as a way to pander to progressives. In his hands I’m hoping Doctor Who will regain the magic and wonder it once had and bring in the viewers it started losing midway Matt Smith’s tenure.

Thoughts On “Wonder Woman” The Movie

WARNING: SPOILERS FOR EVERYONE WHO HAS NOT SEEN WONDER WOMAN AHEAD.

What I liked: 

Wonder Woman herself. I admit I had many misgivings going into this movie because Hollywood can be notorious about writing terrible female characters. Particularly in films about women.

Diana was an excellent well-rounded character that, while ignorant about our world, wasn’t a moron. She was a vivacious warrior, but she also had a great amount of empathy for everyone. Especially the innocent.

I love that they showed that you can have a great deal of emotion without it crippling you. In fact, Diana’s passion and kindness were what drove her throughout the course of the movie. As well as her unshakeable confidence in her own abilities.

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Me after this movie

The romance. Okay, so I know a lot of people that are complaining about this, but I really enjoyed the relationship between Diana and the Captain. No, I guess it didn’t necessarily need to happen, but the way that they did it worked very well. It was a very organic and I could genuinely see the chemistry. While it’s heavily implied they had sex, there was no sex-scene. This could be because of the rating, but I think it’s because they wanted to focus more on the mechanics of their relationship rather than the carnal element. My favorite scene between them was the boat scene where they’re having a quiet moment together. It was a great character-developing moment.  It didn’t take anything away from the film and Diana didn’t turn into a ditzy idiot because of it, and for this I am happy.

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The fight scenes. Maybe there were too many scenes of Diana and the Amazons doing barrel rolls in slow-mo, but damn if it didn’t look awesome. I loved seeing the fluidity of their moves. It was more like watching a dance recital than a battle (in a good way) and it’s in keeping with their culture. They are a society of warriors so all of this is second nature to them.

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The music. As soon as I heard Wonder Woman’s theme while she was taking out those Nazis, I was cheering. It’s so powerful and personalized. I already have it on my phone and have been listening to it while zipping in and out of traffic on the way to work.

They address sexism , but don’t beat the audience over the head with it. It was a concern of mine going in that they were going to overcompensate with the “girl power” aspect of Wonder Woman. This is another foible of Hollywood. They have to reinforce the concept that a woman is powerful to the point where they sound almost self-conscious about it. However, that was not the case here. While many male characters balk at the idea of a woman being involved in a war, as soon as the ensemble cast see her in action all their doubts are assuaged. We don’t have to be reminded every two seconds that this is a woman and it’s remarkable that she can do these things.

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The message. Yes, the “are humans worth saving” concept has been done before, but it was done so well in this movie. Especially when it’s revealed that Ares actually hadn’t done anything to start this war, he just planted the idea into the heads of humans. I was honestly curious about how they were going to approach the concept of Ares influencing humanity because it was obvious he isn’t the reason why humans fight each other.

Steve’s sacrifice. I hate that Steve died, but I know why he had to. I’m glad they didn’t pull some deus ex machina crap and have him come back to life either. The way that they filmed his final moments really got to me. The way that he hesitated just before pulling the trigger showed us that Steve wasn’t a conventional superhero, he was just a regular guy trying to do the right thing. He didn’t want to die but he was willing to do so because it meant others would live. We might not be able to see ourselves in Wonder Woman, but we can definitely see ourselves in Steve. I can also appreciate that his death meant that there were actual consequences for all of this. The heroes don’t just get to have their cake and eat it to.

Okay, now that I’ve given this movie a tongue bath, time to talk about the things I didn’t like or had a problem with.

What I didn’t like:

They use the “Fighting Is Too Dangerous” Cliche. What makes this worse is the fact that it doesn’t really go anywhere. The mother just ends up accepting it as soon as Diana takes off for the land of mortals. It also doesn’t make that much sense. In the event that this with Ares war did happen, which would be better: for her daughter to be an exceptionally skilled fighter or for her to be a sitting duck when Ares comes around? I get that motherly inclinations aren’t always logical, but…seriously.

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Dian’s aunt dying is kind of brushed under the rug. No, I didn’t necessarily want to sit through another death-of-a-mentor scene, but it was kind of glossed over in the grand scheme of things. She doesn’t even mention her again in the rest of the movie. It’s just kind of….this:

Diana: NO! NO! NOOOOOOOOOO- And now I’m over it. ADVENTUUUUUURE!!!

They use the “Repeating a Line Another Character Said Previously To Establish A Lesson Learned” cliche. “It’s not about deserve. It’s about what you believe.” I don’t know why movies keep doing this. It’s not particularly clever and yet screenwriters keep doing this. 

Diana’s CGI battle with Ares. Don’t get me wrong. Most of the battle was awesome. However, there were certain places where you could obviously tell that neither or the actors were actually there. Especially towards the middle/end when she uses her whip on him.

The reveal that Diana was a goddess is kind of an anti-climax. I will admit, I was surprised that God-Killer was a fake. However, when it was revealed that Diana was a goddess and only a god could kill another god, I just thought “oh.” And that’s it. Nothing about her character really changed for me.

Overall Opinion: 

I loved this movie and had a pretty difficult time coming up with things I didn’t like about. There were a few nitpick here and there, but it was a great movie and (I hope) it will be a harbinger of better female superhero movies to come.

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Thoughts on “Outlander” by Diana Gabaldon

WARNING: SPOILERS FOR THE BOOK OUTLANDER AHEAD.

Strap in, folks, this is gonna be a long review. Then again this was a long book, so what do you expect?

What I liked: 

The great characters. I didn’t always like Claire, but she always felt like a person and not just a vassal through which the author could carry out the story. Everyone had an interesting backstory and their own distinct personality, which really helped me get into the spirit of the novel. The dialogue was very personalized as well and I was impressed at how each character was able to give lengthy exposition without it sounding too unnatural. I also found that, despite the Game of Thrones level number of characters, it was easy enough to remember who each one of them were because of how unique Gabaldon made them.

The immersive environment. It’s very easy for a reader to lose themselves in this book. The way Gabaldon is able to describe the lay of the land is impressive and I never had any difficulty wondering where exactly these people were or what the environment looked like. What I can appreciate is the environment isn’t just a backdrop, it’s engrained into the story itself.

Sexy times for all. While the romance between Jamie and Claire may have been a bit rushed, what with Claire still having a husband back home, I believe the chemistry between these two is strong. The fact that they’re both well-developed characters helps me care more about their relationship and I think Gabaldon writes sex pretty well. She doesn’t explain so little that you can’t tell what’s happening, but she also doesn’t explain so much that it comes across as mechanical and weird.

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The historical accuracy. It’s obvious that a lot of research went into this novel and as someone who has tried to write historical fiction with mixed results, I can really appreciate her efforts. The details she put into this really help the story come alive, especially when she writes about the environment and costumes people wear. She also doesn’t shy away from describing the abominable odors that persist in these types of places back in the 18th century. I was doubly impressed when she went into details about which herbs to use for healing and how to describe how someone would properly attend a wounded man back in those days.

What I didn’t like: 

The focus was all over the place. I don’t think I would be out of line for saying that this book is by and large plotless. While there are many obstacles that the lead characters run into, there is no centralized conflict. For the most part, the structure of the story is “this happened, and then that happened, and then this happened.” It didn’t ever seem to be leading up to anything. On the one hand it left me guessing as to what would be the final outcome of the story, but on the other hand it made me wonder just what the point of all of this was. This is a shame because there were so many points of interest such as Claire missing the modern world, Jamie’s outlaw status and, I think most importantly, the inevitable doom that is to befall the Highlanders.

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Claire’s unrealistic reactions to killing. The book makes it clear on several occasions that Claire is accustomed to seeing people dying because of her position as a nurse during the War. However, I’d like to point out that there is a huge difference between watching someone dying and actively participating in their murder. In my humble opinion, Claire’s reaction to having murdered someone is disturbingly understated. Granted the person she murdered was trying to sexually assault her, taking a life is an unnatural act and a psychologically stable person would be horrified at having to do so. Especially one who swore an oath to always preserve life in any way she can. I thought they would explore this more after she was forced to murder a 16 year-old in order to save Jamie, but even then she doesn’t seem to feel that guilty about it. What makes this even more difficult for me to swallow is that this boy really didn’t do anything wrong. He was just a young lad who was trying to do his job to the best of his ability. He just happened to be on the wrong side.

It went on for too long. I think much of this can be attributed to the fact that this book lacked a plot so the author just went along with the story until she felt like stopping. While I enjoyed this book, most of this story didn’t actually need to happen in the grand scheme of things and I’m actually shocked at what they left out. For instance, the final battle to collect Jamie from the infamous Scottish prison….happens off screen…….

We spent pages and pages talking about Claire fighting a wolf (a conflict that I don’t believe even needed to exist since it doesn’t contribute anything to the plot), but when it comes to the climax, the great escape, the novel’s main villain dying….it happens off screen…….

There was no reason to cut that part out. There were so many other pointless scenes that could have been scrapped. They did not need to cut the one part that needed to be in there.

I admit, I’ve gone into this fandom totally blind so perhaps Black Jack comes back with a cyborg eye and there will be a real show-down. I don’t know. I’m just judging this book by its own merits.

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What the hell is up with Chapter 39? So the scene where Claire tries to save Jamie’s life after his torture at the hands of Randall while they’re at the monastery….Can anyone tell me what happened in that scene? I think she was trying to rekindle his will to live but…that should not have worked. Mind you, I only have a passing knowledge of psychology when it comes to PTSD related events, but I’m pretty sure forcing a patient to relive a traumatic event literally days after it happened in an uncontrolled environment would not result in a sudden miraculous turn-around in their mental behavior. Particularly when they are at death’s door to begin with. In fact, I’m reasonably sure that should have made him keel over.

Jamie’s torture. I’m gonna be honest, I thought it was overkill. The extent of his injuries and psychological torture should have left him a completely unresponsive husk of a man or dead. At least if this had stayed as true to life as it had been before. One of the most interesting aspects of his torture was left, for the most part, unexplored. While recounting the horror he faced while against Randall, he lets slip that the sight of Claire makes him ill because Randall basically conditioned him so every time he thought about Claire he would either be beaten or worse. In one of the most emotionally devastating scenes in the whole book, he tearfully explains that he doesn’t want to see her again because just her being there reawakens all of these awful memories.

Me:

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Wow. That is dark. More than dark, that’s completely and utterly heart-wrenching.

Aaaaaaand after Claire’s Most Awful Idea Ever, he’s totally fixed and ready for some bairn-making.

Ummm……

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There’s no reason why this should have worked. You can’t just undo classical conditioning.

Mrs. Gabaldon, you seem like a smart lady and all, but I don’t think you understand how psychology works. Sadly, once a mind is screwed up that badly, the damage is usually permanent. If not, it takes a looooong time for an individual to overcome it.

I think that Jamie’s aversion to Claire would have made an excellent jumping off point for the next novel and would justify a book of equal length, especially if she found out during this debacle that she was pregnant with his child. Not only would Claire have to deal with the impending slaughter of the Highlanders and the Dragoons looking for Jamie, she would also have to confront the possibility of raising a child in a foreign country in the past alone. That’s more than enough conflict for a book, in my opinion. But instead we get a miraculous recovery from Jamie and they all live happily ever after. At least for now.

Overall opinion: 

I enjoyed reading this novel and I’m more than a little interested in reading the next installment. However, I also believe this book could have been so much better if some things were cut and if the story had been given more focus. It was interesting just watching them go about their daily lives, but I think actually giving it a plot would have raised the stakes a considerable amount.

Ode to the Worst Poet in the World

Over the years, I’ve been forced to read many a poem, and, while I can appreciate the effort it takes to compose one, I can’t say I’m a huge fan of the art form.

However, that doesn’t mean that I don’t have a favorite poet.

During my trip to Scotland last year, I came across a plaque dedicated to the supposed worst poet in the world, William Topaz McGonagall. Prior to my visit, I’d never heard of this man and so decided to conduct a more thorough investigation of him once I returned to the states.

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The person from whom Professor McGonagall gets her name. Fanficton prompt: McGonagall tries to write poetry in her off-hours, but HP’s shenanigans keep getting in the way.

McGonagall was a weaver whom, at the age of 52, was suddenly struck by the idea that he should quit his job and make poetry his life’s vocation.

He was very prolific and composed around 215 poems over the course of several years, all of which covered a wide range of topics from the military, to famous people, to current events.

Apparently his poetry was so awful that it was a common practice for the city folk to throw rotten vegetables at him and jeer during his recitals.

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Example of his work:

Welcome! thrice welcome! to the year 1893,
For it is the year I intend to leave Dundee,
Owing to the treatment I receive,
Which does my heart sadly grieve.
Every morning when I go out
The ignorant rabble they do shout
‘There goes Mad McGonagall’
In derisive shouts as loud as they can bawl,
And lifts stones and snowballs, throws them at me;
And such actions are shameful to be heard in the city of Dundee.
And I’m ashamed, kind Christians, to confess
That from the Magistrates I can get no redress.
Therefore I have made up my mind in the year of 1893
To leave the ancient City of Dundee,
Because the citizens and me cannot agree.
The reason why? — because they disrespect me,
Which makes me feel rather discontent.
Therefore to leave them I am bent;
And I will make my arrangements without delay,
And leave Dundee some early day.

McGonagall was so convinced that he was a misunderstood genius that he walked 50 miles to gain the patronage of Queen Victoria, only to be told when he arrived to leave and never come back.

Knowing all of this, I think it’s difficult not to love the guy. Not only did he quit his job to do what he loved at a time when this most assuredly meant starvation, he would not let anyone convince him he shouldn’t write.

Was he an egotist? Oh yeah. In fact he seemed to be so oblivious to how bad of a writer he was that some historians are convinced it was all an act. Me, I’m not so sure.

McGonagall may have died a virtually penniless laughingstock, but there’s a bit of poetic irony to this story.

In spite of all the backlash his poetry received, every single one of McGonagall’s poems has been published. More to the point, his name and his legacy have endured centuries while other more talented poets have died forgotten.

As much as the cliché of following your dreams gets thrown around, it seems to have benefitted McGonagall. He didn’t let anyone persuade him to retire his quill and as a result he has earned himself a place in history.

It’s at the back of the bus with no air conditioning and a five year-old continuously kicking the headrest, but it’s a place nonetheless.

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If someone like McGonagall can make his dreams come true, than by God so can we.

Thoughts on “My Cousin Rachel” by Daphne du Maurier

WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR THE NOVEL.

As an avid fan of du Maurier’s Rebecca, I have to confess that I was a bit disappointed with My Cousin Rachel.

It started off very strong with little Philip coming face to face with the corpse of a man who had been hanged for murdering his wife, a scene which instantly hooked me into the story as it seemed to indicate that shit was going to go down.

Unfortunately nothing that happens in the novel thereafter really has as much of a punch as the beginning would seem to indicate.

What I did like: 

Du Maurier does a fantastic job of setting up atmosphere and generating feelings of unease as well as mystery. I think she also does a magnificent job of creating characters and relationships. None of them came across as flat or one-dimensional, even the side characters who didn’t do all that much.

I award du Maurier bonus points for writing a male for the lead. As someone who often struggles writing for members of the opposite sex, I thought du Maurier did an excellent job of capturing the mindset of a 19th century Englishman. If I had no indication as to who the author was, I most likely would have thought this book was written by a man.

The pacing is excellent too, never focusing on any one scene for too long.

What I didn’t like: 

As I mentioned earlier, there was a lot of build-up for not a lot of pay-off. It became clear as soon as Philip recovered from his “illness” that du Maurier was not going to go balls-to-the-wall as I was hoping she would do.

What puzzles me is why Rachel allowed him to get better. Was it because the writer needed him to? I’m so confused.

Also I’m disappointed there was no final confrontation between the two of them where Rachel dropped all pretense and showed Phillip her true colors. Perhaps that would have been a little too soup opera, but I think it would have been more satisfying to see the real Rachel for a moment, instead of just the repercussions of her actions.

It  would have been so interesting to see how she interacted with someone who has her confidant, a.k.a the doctor. You could make the argument that it’s creepier because we don’t know but…I disagree. I think more would actually be better in the case of this story.

Overall opinion: 

This was by no means a bad book, I’m just disappointed because I know it could have been better. If it had been just a little bit more I would probably rank it up there along with Rebecca which is one of my favorite horror novels of all time.

I’m curious to see if the movie does a better job on delivering on scares. Based on Hollywood’s track record, I wouldn’t hold out much hope.