A Return to Written Roots

28 Nov

It has been many years since I last dusted off this old blog. In that time, I’ve loved and lost, found love again, tried on many different job titles and landed myself a job as an editor for a local small business. (Nothing fancy, but it pays the bills.)

Some things haven’t changed though; my desire to write being the first, and foremost. Most recently, writing for my very own Dungeons and Dragons campaign has rekindled my creative passions. Often, my creative flow has taken a back seat for high pressure work situations and the exhaustion that being in my 30’s brings. I see that I actually still have a few lonely adventurers following this, and I hope I can continue to bring you the critiques and reviews you enjoy. In addition, I plan to bring my creative thinking cap to the table in the form of short stories (both fiction and nonfiction), poetry (don’t groan!) and dungeons and dragons chatter. So, my fellow nerds and adventurers–hang on tight. This story has only just begun.

Advertisements

Poland, Boston, and the Human Spirit

23 Apr

Poland was mainly a blur of food, sleep deprivation, drinks, people, and brightly colored buildings.  Krakow is called the Magic City for a reason. There is something to it that as a tourist, I couldn’t quite put my finger on. The city at night, I would compare to even the bright lights of Paris.  Tourists and locals alike strolled the city into the pink hours of the morning, laughing and filling the air with vibrancy. The life there seems to have actual quality. But I found myself most impressed with the people I met on this journey.

The people of Poland have a hospitality all their own. People genuinely wanted to meet you, speak with you, and like their European cousins–feed you.  The people I met while in Krakow, returned my ability to communicate face-to-face. For so long, I’ve been attached to the computer screen or my cell phone and in the States it is not uncommon to sit across from someone while you’re out to dinner and have nearly no conversation. Instead, there is a wall of cellphones between you both as you take turns surfing the web on your smartphones and exchanging minimal conversation. In Krakow, I felt a sense of intelligence return to me that I had thought I had lost completely. As it turns out, it had never left–but had simply gone into hibernation and  needed to be woken up.  Conversation ranged from music, to politics, to sports (which I know nearly nothing about) to the more complex issue of languages and how they may or may not translate. I was alive. Krakow revived me.

In five days, I experienced more powerful moments in my life than I had in months. This was even more amplified by my visit to the concentration camps, Auschwitz and Birkenau on my last day in Poland. Though most people will flinch away from a difficult trip like this: I sought it out. More than ever, I feel that keeping the horrors of history alive so they are not repeated and so the lives lost in such an awful way are given their proper respect and recognition.

The camps were  overwhelming. A sense of feeling watched or hunted pervaded Auschwitz. My friend who had joined me looked faint much of the time, if not downright sick to her stomach. Openly, she wept for the loss of life while I stoically paid my respects to the lives lost. The place gets under your skin in a way I’ve never experienced before. It felt alive.

Birkenau felt more sad than alive. Abandoned bunks lay in places that had been built to house horses and instead housed starving, sick and dying human beings. The remains of the destroyed crematoriums sat like craters in the landscape that may have been otherwise beautiful. Our guide pointed out a family of deer that grazed nearby as if to prove this point and stated, “See how life must go on?” There is a large stone memorial here which is littered with tiny stones as a sign of respect. I left these places with a whole new perspective on the problems in my life. My problems were nothing. I was not starving. I was not being torn from my family, or watching loved ones be gassed, shot or beaten to death. I was not wondering if I would see another day, or live beyond barbed wire fence. I was alive. And I would embrace that blessing with all that I had. I left the camp with a need to celebrate my being alive–if for nothing more than to live in the place of those who had never had the chance. And for the ones who survived and still managed to live (almost) normal lives. These places reflect not only the power of humanity’s cruelty–but of their spirit and will to survive.

The stranger part of visiting the camps was what it coincided with here in the states. I didn’t know it yet, but my city was under attack at the very moment I was touring these Death Camps. The Boston Marathon Bombings have been plastered on every news channel here in Massachusetts ever since it happened. I found out what happened in Boston, a day after it happened. In a panic I found myself reaching out to loved ones for assurance that they were alright.  The city of Boston came together as one in a way that makes me proud. Here, in today’s history I witnessed the power of the human spirit that I had sought out at the historical sites.  It is something that I never imagined would happen. Only this time, when terror struck we charged it head on. Stories continue to come out about every day people who became not-so-everyday Heroes. A dancer who lost her foot, continues to hope to dance again, a man who lost both sons to war–saved others who would have been lost in much the same way. I am alive again–and grateful, and amazed by the ever powerful presence in the past and now in the present of the strength of the human spirit. Just as when I exited the camps in Poland, I find myself constantly humming the tune from Fiddler on the Roof, “To life…to life…L’Chaim…”

Boston Strong

Poland Strong

“R” you in love with Warm Bodies? A book and movie review

8 Feb

“I am dead, but it’s not so bad. I’ve learned to live with it.”

And I was hooked. This is the first line of Isaac Marion’s novel, Warm Bodies, and right away I felt that I had connected with his main character–who just so happens to be a mildly clear-thinking, witty, brain-eating zombie. If I had to sum up this story: it’s a romance–with zombies. Marion’s novel stuck with me as he narrates a story above life, love and survival from the eyes of someone who is already dead. (well…sort of. )

The lead character, who goes by only the letter R as he has forgotten the rest of his name, is a zombie. He explains right away that the living dead can’t remember their names, their past lives or what it was like to be alive anymore–they only keep going, unable to communicate, trapped within rotting bodies.

This brilliant novel struck a chord with me–and it is obvious from the movie that it struck the filmmakers in the same way–in regard to the lack of human interaction and communication in the present. R poses questions to himself and to the reader as he faces his inner self in various conflicts–like eating people, for example. Although R knows that he has to eat people to survive, he doesn’t like to hurt people. He has inner conflict about it. I suppose that is partly why he was susceptible in the first place to falling for one of the living.

After eating the brain of a boy named, Perry, R finds himself hopelessly enamored with a girl named, Julie. The only problem is that she is alive. Torn between his nature and his newly discovered feelings, R seeks to protect the terrified Julie, and after camouflaging her scent in his dead blood so the other zombies won’t smell her, he takes her back to his home in the airport. Julie is understandably terrified at first, but soon R shows that he is becoming something bigger than he once once. Speech begins to return to him in blurbs at first, hunger for flesh and brains ebbs and his attachment to Julie grows.

I have always been a fan of the unusual point of view narrations–but so far, Warm Bodies takes the cake as one of my favorites. R’s narrative is an exciting combination of poetry, philosophy and gore. I quickly grew attached to the lead character and found myself rooting for him as he fights to change and as Julie rallies with him to find a “cure” to the zombie “plague”. All the while they each face their own version of zombies, both actual and physical as the actual humans within the story begin losing what made them such and emotionally slowly decays.

The film Warm Bodies, does a pretty fair job of picking up on R’s sense of humor–though I would have liked if it retained more of his inner narrative than was given. However, it was impressive how much emotion I felt came across from the actor who played R, Nicholas Holt,despite his lack of much facial expression or vocal cues.

Perhaps it was because I read the book that I felt that the actress who played Julie, Teresa Palmer, seemed to show less emotion than Holt, who was the actual zombie. She didn’t seem nearly as charismatic or lively as she is depicted in the novel: however, the film’s version of Julie has a grittier, older feel–and for a moment or two it feels like the movie version of The Hunger Games. (Which perhaps was the point?)

What I applaud the film most for is the horrific visual of the Boneys, skeleton-like zombies who within the novel are the leaders of the Zombie “hives”. They were truly grotesque in movements and presentations. They even made me jump.

Though, I wish that the film has stuck with the ending given to Julie’s father, General Grigio. It better reflected the comparison between current humanity and zombies, and though grim, I felt was more suitable. But alas, Hollywood loves their happy endings!

I rate the novel a 7 out of 10 on the restless writer scale, and the movie a four out of five cupcakes.

All and all, both the film and novel are worthwhile time-passers for this winter. And for those who love romance and also zombies–these are to die for. (Or perhaps to live!)

Les Miserables will make you miserable! (But in a feel-good kind of way)

15 Jan

I wasn’t exactly sure of the plot of Les Miserables, but I understood what the title meant: “The Miserables.” So, one thing was certain; I wasn’t signing myself up for a family comedy.

Even so, I was convinced that I had to see it. After all, it’s a musical, and I haven’t yet met a musical that I haven’t liked.And I had always wanted to see the play. So, as the lights dimmed and the music drummed up, along with a surge of sea-sounds and booming baritone voices, I felt a thrilled chill dance along my vertebrae.That chill was only the start of what felt like an enveloping experience at the movie theaters.

If one has never seen Les Miserables, it is a mildly difficult thing to try to explain in mere words the emotional force that the music seems to contain. (But I will do what I can!) Les Miserables is a musical emotional force. It starts and ends with a heavy orchestral hand that leaves you slightly a-gape. Les Miserables is more like an opera than a musical, as there is little to no spoken dialogue and nearly all of the major plot is in song, which could have been a huge drawback if the singing wasn’t generally well done. (With an exception of Russell Crowe, who plays the chaotic good cop, Javert, who comes to an end that I believe should come to all poor singers.)

Each scene is loaded with a raw humanity: a prisoner who has hardened his heart, a priest who opens it again, a mother who does anything she can to support her child alone, a child abandoned and found again, a man rebuilt, learning to love, be loved and let go, a young man finding his place in the world and learning loss. Saying that this movie is heavy, hardly covers the plunge into problems that Les Miserables rockets its audience through. This film is not for the faint of heart. (I recommend stocking up on extra napkins at the concession stand if you don’t have tissues on hand.)

Les Miseables opens with the main character, Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman), working as a slave in a shipyard. The prisoners are waist deep in seawater as they struggle to bring a wounded ship to port. Manacled at the neck and hands, they sing a powerful baritone rendition of, “Look down”. Here the audience is also introduced to the main villain, Jevert (Russell Crowe) who seems to particularly loves to break Valjean. Valjean, having filled his prison sentence, is handed his papers to be free, but they mark his as a “dangerous man”. Once free of the prison, Valjean is still treated like a criminal and finds himself unable to find a job or shelter. Instead, he finds himself sleeping on a doorstep. Luckily, a kindly priest discovers him there and takes him in for the night. Desparate, Valjean steals away the Church’s silver in the night and runs off before they wake–but is immediately caught and brought back before the priest by the police. But the priest proclaims Valjean innocent and the police are forced to let him free. Valjean then makes a point to turn his life around and the movie follows his story.

There are of course multiple branches, time frames and points of views throughout the film. The character Fontaine (Ann Hathaway) is introduced next as a factory worker who is separate to support her child, and ends up selling her teeth, her hair and her body to male strangers. Her story is a tragic one, but her daughter Cosette(Amanda Seyfried) is more fortunate as Valjean takes her in as his own daughter and raises her under his new alias.

Yet, Javert soon discovers him and realizes that he is the former thief who skipped parole and seeks to recapture him. The story leads the audience through the brutal French revolution, introducing yet another character, Marius (Eddie Redmayne) who falls for the lovely Cosette.

Though the story is full of absolute misery, death, and despair–it has such a powerful beauty that though you might be a little boogery by the end you feel a sense of revitalization. Small flecks of humor lighten the otherwise heavy atmosphere throughout the film, and the tiny glimmers of love throughout the otherwise dark film seem large and luminous in comparison.

All and all, I would see this film again and found myself humming “I dream a dream” all the way out of the theater. Les Miserables brings humanity back to film and I give it four cupcakes out of five.

Les Miserables

2012 in Review and Thanks

5 Jan

Hi Everypony and Crimestoppers!

 

I know it’s been some time since I last made a post, as the end of the year has been chaos for me. But I would like to take a moment to thank all of my readers (loyal and not so loyal) for taking the time to read this blog.  My new years resolution consists this year of having more posts, more adventures and more snarky comments to fill this page with! I hope you join me for my upcoming adventures in the new year!

 

 

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The new Boeing 787 Dreamliner can carry about 250 passengers. This blog was viewed about 1,800 times in 2012. If it were a Dreamliner, it would take about 7 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Disney Doesn’t “Wreck-it” with Wreck-It Ralph

10 Nov

After the more recent disappointments of The Borrower Arrietty and Brave, I was somewhat wary to see Disney’s most recent animated film, Wreck-it Ralph.

The advertisements looked promising, giving me a small hope that this would be the film that once more redeemed Disney’s animated films in my eyes, but I reminded myself that the ads for Brave and Arrietty had looked gorgeous too. So when my boyfriend and I finally made it down to the theater this week, I held my breath as the lights dimmed.

To my great relief, Disney had pulled it off. (Possible Spoiler alert!)

Wreck-it Ralph opens with a pixilated Steam-boat Willie, and then the lead character, Ralph begins to narrate over a close up of what appears to be an old arcade game, complete with 8-bit music, where we see Ralph living his day-to-day.

Ralph is the bad guy–but as all the ads point out (and  out of Street Fighter Zangeef’s mouth)–he isn’t a bad guy. It’s easy to feel badly for Ralph, a character who is programmed to be the villain of his game, wrecking an apartment for the hero, Felix, to fix; however, even after the arcade closes and the characters are allowed to be themselves, Ralph is still rejected by his fellow game characters and lives a lonely life in the dump.

The story takes place on the 30th anniversary of Wreck-it Ralph’s game, Fix-it Felix JR, with Ralph attending what appears to be an Alcoholic’s Anonymous style meeting of game villains where he admits that he wishes he knew what it felt like to be the hero. Here Disney playfully injects bad guys from games as familiar as Bowser from Super Mario, Zangeef from Street Fighter, A Pac man Ghost, and Dr. Robotnik from Sonic the Hedgehog along with characters the younger generation may recognize. (I couldn’t figure them out myself.) Ralph also admits that he doesn’t want to be the bad guy any more–but the group of baddies laugh it off and encourage him to take it, “one game at a time.” and not to “go turbo”.

After returning from his meeting, Ralph realizes that the other characters in his game are celebrating their 30 year anniversary with a party and, a little hurt his invitation never arrived, promptly makes an appearance there. The hero in his game, Felix, is a sweet and utterly loveable little man with a magic hammer is urged by his fellow characters to “get rid” of Ralph. Too nice to tell Ralph to hit the bricks, Felix invites Ralph in for cake instead, where Ralph is egged on by some of the other characters and ultimately he ruins the party. Ralph insists to the disbelieving group that he could earn metals just as easily as the hero, Felix, and is challenged by another character that if he gets a metal he live with them in the apartment instead of in the dump.

Urged on by the idea of living with the other game characters, Ralph embarks on a journey to obtain his own hero metal.

The audience travels with Ralph on his journey to be a hero and to be treated fairly through various games as Ralph “game jumps” to a very Halo-esq game called, Hero’s Duty, a one person shooter where he is faced with massive Bug-monsters that become whatever they eat. With absolutely no finesse, Ralph manages to steal a metal, but in doing so, also launches himself (literally) into another game as he struggles with a Bug that has clung to him in a stolen escape pod. They crash land in a game called, Sugar Rush, which is sort of like a candy-land racing game, where the Bug sinks and disappears in frosting. Here Ralph encounters a little girl called, Vanelope Schweet, who promptly steals his hero metal, thinking it’s a coin.

It turns out that Vanelope is in her own string of trouble,  and like Ralph, facing  isolation from her fellow game characters. The other characters claim Vanelope is a glitch that can’t be allowed to race with the other characters (or compete in the reindeer games!) and feeling badly for the girl, Ralph promises to help her.

Meanwhile, In Ralph’s game, the Arcade is open for business again and Ralph is a no show. Gamers who play notice the missing villain and bring it to the manager’s attention thinking the game is broken. Felix and the other characters finally realize that Ralph is missing and Felix promises to “fix-it” and sets off to find Ralph before the plug on their game is pulled. Felix and the female captain from Hero’s Duty team up, Felix searching for Ralph and the captain seeking out the Bug that escaped her game with Ralph.

Wreck-it Ralph is a movie about not making judgements–but even the villain of this film may surprise you. I think it may have been a first for me since I was young that I didn’t immediately know who the villain was and I loved the surprise. (I won’t spoil it for you.) The film is full of jokes that all ages can enjoy between the obvious “duty” jokes to the more adult themed (over the kids heads) jokes, this film is one I would consider seeing in theaters again.  Disney managed to pull it out of the bag for me on this one. The graphics are smooth and gorgeous and even the music is helplessly catchy. It gets a five our of five cupcakes from the Restless Writer scale.

 

Symphony of the Goddesses

20 Oct

As a kid, one of the first video games that I ever loved aside from Pokemon, was the Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time for Nintendo 64. I was fascinated by the mind-boggling addictive puzzle RPG style of the game and the wonderful magical storyline the game presented.

Even now as an adult, I will openly admit that I have a love for the Zelda games, and it seems each generation has it’s own favorite that spans from old Nintendo games to  the newest which can be played on the Nintendo Wii and 3Ds.

So it seems only natural that upon being asked if I would like to go to the Symphony of the Goddesses this past week on October 18th at the Wang that I say yes.

The night was cold, but the heat of bodies packed within the balcony seats at the Wang theater was enough to allow most girls to be comfortable in even the flimsiest of dresses as they waited for the seats to fill. Below, we had view of the whole stage and three video monitors placed at different angles. The stage was lit softly, and the musicians could be heard softly testing their instruments; part of a song there, a stray note here for warm ups floated through the spacious theater. As I glanced around the theater, I could see a sea of green as various people of all ages had dressed in Link costumes for the occasion and even a pair as Mario and Luigi.

Then, a great cheer rose up as the conductor entered the stage; she was delicate, blonde and young with laughing eyes and  with a gorgeous brogue she introduced herself as Emiear Noone. The producer, Jason Micheal Paul, was then on the stage, announcing the line up and expressing his love for the games as well, which was followed by massive wave of applause. These were his people, and he was in good company.

The show opened with a bang as a medley of Zelda’s main opening powerfully lit up the room. Noone firmly led the Orchestra as behind them scenes from the most memorable Zelda games lit up the three large screens.

The first act consisted of dungeon music and classic ocarina music, followed by a medley from Legend of Zelda: Ocherina of Time. The crowd could be heard laughing on an off at some of the scenes chosen from the games. Then, abruptly between the first and second half, Noone called our attention once more to her. She admitted it was unorthodox to stop between the first and second half, but wanted to draw the crowd’s attention to the fact that the second half would consist of music selected from Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, which involved controlling the wind with what looked like a conductor’s baton. Noone then raised he hand, displaying her own personal wind waker, and proceeded with conducting the rest of the symphony with it.

After the intermission, Paul once mor graced the stage, thanking Rhode Island’s Philharmonic Choir for using their voices along with the powerfully done orchestra music and introducing the second half of the show which concisted of music from Legend of Zelda: Link to the Past, Legend of Zelda Twilight Princess, and which followed up with music from Majora’s mask.

The show had not one but three standing ovations and was all and all a moving and fantastic experience that was enjoyed by multiple generations and fans of both music and gaming. This was a celebration and an homage to the games, their fans and of course the composer of the beautiful Zelda music, Koji Kondo.