Friday, October 8, 2010

Readers and Book-Buyers Beware

Recently, one of the blogs that I follow made a post about quitting her job at a large book store chain (referred to in the post as Shacks and Gentry). I find her post and expose not only interesting but infuriating. Having worked several minimum pay, part-time jobs myself, I know all too well corporate choices are not always the best - hell, even some of my better paying corporate jobs had foolish and absurd rules imposed on the work force. It seems that no retail or large corporation is immune to this.

However, there emerges horror stories like the one that Iron Liz posted (and this is not the first time she's posted one of these) that can not go tolerated. Since the Sardonic Girl is tied to a high volume group of solid media book readers (i.e. paper books), I'm hopping that this word spreads: Do not purchase from these large book chains!

Let the dinosaur die as an example to the rest that treating their work forces in such a way is not only unacceptable, but a ridiculous way to do business in general. This can easily be done by purchasing from local book stores, or ordering them online from other small chain book stores. There are plenty of acceptable alternatives available.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Spoiler Alerts! - Twilight: Eclipse

I love stories; I love reading them, I love hearing them, I love telling them, I love playing them, and I love watching them. As an armature writer and artist, I find the best way to improve myself as a person is to open myself to all forms of narrative media; both good and bad. And boring. And banal. I love the bad just as much as I love the good. I find them equally beneficial as teaching implements and don’t want to ignore something just because it doesn’t meet my high standards for a quality piece.

There are times, however, that I’ll finish absorbing a story – be it bad or good – and I’ll have something to say. Be it a character, a plot point, art direction, game play design decision, or the entire goddamned thing. More often than not, I can’t discuss the topics I want to discuss without somebody saying in an annoyed tone, “Spoilers! God.”

These are usually the sort of pricks that can’t foresee uncommon plot points such as the lead male protagonist falls in love with the lead female on the simple fact that she has breasts and he’s always wanted a pair for Christmas, but his parents were to cheap; the wormy corporate guy is going to inevitably sell out the leads because they totally took his cookie from the cookie sheet; and the most uncommon plot point of all: the bad guy dies in the end.

Seriously, I hate these people. With the introduction of the internet and simplification of obtaining said narrative, they have every chance see/listen to/read/play what they want to. It’s not my fault that they can’t have a good time enjoying the story, if they now what happens at the end. This is usually the fault of the writer for not holding their interest, or their fault for being an ignorant prick. If I’m discussing a topic I’m passionate about, I’m discussing it in full; regardless of what others may want to filter out of it. Thus I’m creating Spoiler Alerts! My own personal method of separating the wine from the swill.

Let us begin…

Warning! What follows contains a high volume of spoilers. If you weren’t able to figure that out based on the title of this segment, then you can fuck right off.

Christ. It’s difficult to say anything about this series that hasn’t been already. I guess I wanted a challenge for my first review. In case you were living under a rock for the past five years here’s a short recap of the story thus far: it’s a harlequin bodice ripper in which a young girl falls desperately in love with a vampire and a werewolf and must make the dangerous, yet alluring choice between one of the two dark and brooding heroes. Sounds awesome, right? Too bad the writer’s conservative background and – more predominately – her inability to write got in the way of this being an incredibly entertaining story. The werewolf totally isn’t a werewolf even though he totally is and also happens to show the early warning signs for being a rapist. The only real antagonist is non-existent and useless. The only interesting characters (Rosalee, Jasper, and Charlie) are all benched in favor of the vapid and frustrating leads. She introduces a character who can see the future thus eliminating any suspense or interest in the coming events. The vampire is a douche covered in glitter (but only some of the times). And finally, the lead female character is about as interesting as cold toast most of the times and a hartless bint who likes to mess with the emotions of everyone else the rest of the time.

This movie essentially starts how it ends. Edward wants to get married and Bella just wants to get the milk for free rather than going with the costly and time consuming effort of locating and purchasing a female bovine. While, in the end Bella does cave in and decide to marry Edward, I get the feeling she’s doing it specifically for the purpose of copulation. Everything that fills the in between space – the middle where all the fun and interesting things are supposed to happen – isn’t really that interesting and really doesn’t amount to anything. The movie keeps building up a huge battle between the Cullens and their loosely allied werewolves and an army of newborn vampires, but it’s mostly resolved off screen and – as mentioned before – Victoria, the antagonist leading the attack against the Cullens, is killed off in a two minute anti-climatic scuffle with Edward (and it’s just that: a scuffle; they toss each other around for a little bit).

What’s most troubling about this movie are the lead characters as compared to the supporting characters. The three main characters are flat, annoying, repetitive, and honestly horrible people in general. While the issues with Jacob (rapist) and Bella (bitch) are much more apparent, Edward is just bland and grating.

At one point later in the movie, Bella is trying to get inside of Edward’s pants for about the eighth time, and he decides to distract her with a romantic tale of the time that he was initially born in. He tells her (in level of monotone I initially thought was impossible) that in his time they would have gone on chaperoned dates, been constantly monitored as to prevent any hanky-panky, and he wouldn’t have been able to ask for her hand in marriage until he had asked her father’s permission first. After this he presents her with – as the Sardonic Girl pointed out to me almost immediately – the most ridiculous fucking ring ever.

Of all the bullshit these characters have put me through thus far, this is where I was practically yelling at the screen. There’s a notion going around that those from days past had a much more “pure” outlook on life. This is a lie that people have created for themselves to romanticize previous eras. Human beings have been sneaking around to have sex since sex was invented. Even in the Victorian period when to speak of sex was much more a taboo than it is today, people were figuring out how to escape chaperones and the prying eyes of others have a good roll in the hay. From my understanding Edward was turned into a vampire in the 20’s which was legendary for debauchery.

This just goes to show that somehow, through all his years, Edward is still an ignorant twit not really worth anyone’s time. This was the only actual characterization that he’s ever gone through in my memory and it just made him worse off. As a friend pointed out to me, Bella is attracted to Edward not because of his personality or shocking good looks (the caterpillars he’s stapled to his eyebrows sell it the most). She very much loves him based solely on pheromones – he said himself, he’s evolved to attract humans. This enduring love story is purely superficial, because the reason the two love each other is only because the author said so

Now take those three and compare them to the completely separate and unique characters of Rosalee, Jasper, and Charlie. Starting off with Charlie Swan – Bella’s father – he’s probably the most infinitely-fucking-compassionate father in existence. He only wants the best for his daughter, he doesn’t want to see her get hurt, and wants to give her every chance in the world, but all she does is put him through endless bullshit that, if any other parent was put through, they would have just kicked her out of the fucking house. What does he do instead? He puts on a slightly facetious façade, drinks a Reiner tall boy, and keeps going. He has most of the funniest lines and is quiet honestly the best actor in the entire goddamned movie.

Rosalee is the complete opposite of Charlie in terms of screen time versus paragraph length. From what I’m told by a coworker Charlie is almost nonexistent in the books but gets significantly more screen time in the movies while Rosalee has an entire chapter devoted to her back story but in the movie gets about five fucking minutes screen time devoted to her. And what’s her back story? She’s a young naïve girl who gets gang banged by the man whom she has a school girl crush on as well as his business partners, gets turned into a vampire, and then goes on a year-long blood hunt for the offenders, taking them out one-by-one until finally reaching the former subject of her affections and murdering him while she wears a wedding dress. Sign me the fuck up for this story. This would make an awesome harlequin thriller several orders of magnitude better than having to put up with awkward trinity of Edward, Bella, and Jacob.

The story could easily be made into a saga of movies that dealt with morals, an understanding of love in the primal versus the romantic sense, loss of innocence, redemption, and several other subjects that would both attract the same audience and gain a much larger following. But no; instead we have to hear Jacob say things like, “You just won’t admit you love me,” and, “Better you be dead than a blood sucker;” we have to watch Bella emotionally abuse everyone around her past the point where they should have all just abandoned her ages ago; and we have to watch Edward be bland and annoying.

Finally, Jasper is introduced to us in this movie even though he appeared in the previous two. Dis guy is un-fucking-believable. He goes from saying nothing and having goofy-assed hair making me think he’s Harpo Marx, to looking somewhat plausible (until we see him in the Confederate Calvary uniform at which point I couldn’t stop laughing even though the Sardonic Girl kept trying to shut me up) and having a less convincing Texan accent than Cary Elwes’ in Porco Rosso and Twister. In much the same fashion as Rosalee, Jasper goes from boring as fuck-all to awesome in twenty seconds flat.

As it turns out, despite being greatly outnumbered the Cullens and their tenuous allies – the totally-not-werewolves-but-totally-are – have an advantage: Jasper has extensive experience fighting newborn vampires. Not just fighting, but training and murdering them in cold… um… granite (as it turns out). Where does he get this experience? Pull your socks up and strap on your suspenders because we’re about to get another clumsily edited flashback. As it turns out Jasper was a young Major in the Texas Calvary in the Confederation’s desperate hours. He happens upon a woman in distress and seeks to help her, but (surprise) she’s a vampire looking to cut a chunk of the Sothern United States out for herself. She conscripts Jasper into her war by turning him into a vampire and assigns him to teaching and handling the newborns that she creates.

Since vampires are at their most powerful and dangerous when they’re only a few months old – which makes no logical sense what-so-ever, seeing how they would only get more powerful and thus more dangerous as they age and hone their abilities through experience - this vampiress has Jasper dispose of the ones that get too old and train the recently turned vampires to release them upon her enemies. It can only be assumed that a heart-pounding-action-packed-emotional-roller-coaster tale of a war for Hell, of the fallen, of false romance, of redemption, and of morality ensues.

What? The? Fuck? Why can’t we see this story instead? They tease these potentially incredible stories that could easily fit the bill of harlequin bodice rippers that would appeal to both women and men, but what do we get instead? Jacob wants to rape Bella, Bella tries to rape Edward while simultaneous trying to convince Jacob to stick around by telling him that she might still love him, and Edward remains completely vapid. This is bullshit.

Now the movie is clearly just fucking with me. The whole reason I’m even at this thing is that I felt that I needed to see a Twilight movie in its purest form rather than with the aide of Rifftrax (seriously, if you haven’t seen anything with Rifftrax get educated; they make bad movies good and good movies better). I had it on word that this was the best of the movies thus far, and the Sardonic Girl needed someone to go with. I wasn’t necessarily being a good boyfriend because she knew that I was going to be making fun of it from beginning to end; no, this was to be my Gorilla’s in the Mist. I was intending to get a little more of the natural twihards in the theater, but apparently they had all sated their thirst for douche bags in glitter.

I feel like I have more to say about these movies, but want to save it until the final two movies are released to confirm the hypothesis I’ve come up with. This movie just didn’t provide enough evidence (or anything, really) to get a solid thesis down on paper. As stated before, this movie ends how it begins and I’m pretty sure ends how the second movie ended as well. All they did was decide that Bella and Edward were getting married and that he’s going to turn her into a vampire sometime after that.

This entire movie, as a whole feels like an anime filler episode: slightly annoying to experience, but ultimately forgettable. By this measure, yes, this is the best Twilight movie so far. It’s the same logic as trying to judge the quality of steaming piles of poo: which one’s smell can you forget the quickest?

Friday, June 4, 2010

Monday, May 24, 2010

The Old Hen and the Bread

There once was an old hen – older, at least, than most others – who wanted to bake a loaf of bread. In the morning she woke and took her sickle to thresh the wheat. On her way, she passed the piglets playing in the briar patch.

“Do you want to help me harvest wheat so that I can make bread?” asked the old hen.

“Shh. I’m hiding,” replied the piglet.


She went on her way. The pull was good and the work was easy – although it might have gone a bit quicker. With the small bail on her back she returned to her coup. On the way she found the dog (who was sniffing the earth and the trees and the tall grass).

“Do you want to help me make flour so that I can bake bread?”

“Hmm?” replied the dog.

“Do you want to help me make flour for my bread?”

“I’m sorry. Have you seen the cat? I’ve been looking for some time. Well, at least since breakfast,” the dog asked, still distracted.

“I’ll tell the cat if I see her.”

The flour was made, fine and pure. While some had been caught in her feathers, the old hen was content with her work. She readied the yeast and other ingredients when the cat jumped up to her windowsill.

“Hello,” said the old hen kindly, “You might want to know the dog is looking for you.”

“Good,” said the cat, “That means he still hasn’t found me.”

“The old hen smiled, knowing that the cat secretly wanted the dog to find her, “why don’t you stay and help me make dough for bread?”

The cat slinked and stretched and shrugged and said, “Perhaps later. Right now I must torment the mouse.”

The old hen sighed, “very well,” but the cat had already left. She made the dough as her mother had taught her, and even found she had enough for a second – but smaller – loaf. Some time had passed since the cat had left. She opened the cupboard and held out her wing. From behind the saffron and rosemary, came the mouse – where the old hen had helped him hide.

“Is she gone finally?” asked the mouse as he climbed into her wing so she could let him down.

“She left some time ago; I wanted to be sure she had gone.”

“Oh, thank you.”

“Perhaps you could stay and help me knead the dough and ready the pans so I can bake it?”

“I’m sorry, but I need to return to my family,” he said, hopping down from the counter, “It’s getting late and they’re probably already concerned for me.”

“I suppose you’re right,” said the old hen, “Good day.”

The mouse skittered off and she returned to her labor. Quick work was made of the dough and the pans were greased. By the time the oven had heated enough, the rat had wandered up to her windowsill.

“Hello,” he said quietly.

“Hello,” replied the old hen, who really didn’t want his dirty paws in her kitchen.

“What are you making?” asked the rat after a short beat.

“Some bread,” a short amount of time passed again, “I have much to do. If you wash your hands and feet, you may come in and watch the bread rise for me. That way it doesn’t burn.”

The rat nervously looked around, wringing his hands slowly, “Umm… No. No.”

“Then run along, please.”

And so the rat went about his way, leaving the old hen to finish her bread. Although she had no one to watch the bread rise and make sure that it didn’t burn, it still came out fine (because these were certainly not the first loaves of bread she had baked). The smell was full and rich and would travel far. And with the scent came the curious. First were the piglets.

“What’s that smell?”

“Smells good.”

“Stop pushing.”

“Can we have some?”

“But you didn’t help me harvest the wheat,” said the old hen.

One of the little piglets moaned to which she replied, “Go on now.”

After the piglets finally left, came the dog.

“Is that the bread you were making?”

“Yes. It is.”

“Could I have some?”

“But you didn’t help me make the flour.”

“Yes, but…”

“Not this time.”

Shortly after dog had left the cat snuck in. She purred at the smell and snaked along the kitchen counter.

“Smells good. Do you mind if I have some?

“But you didn’t help me make the dough.”

The cat skrinched her nose, “Suppose so.”

Again, the cat had disappeared before the old hen could give reply, leaving her to the remaining work. Little time passed, again, before the mouse skittered into the room.

With a few quick sniffs of the air he said, “My, my. That smells quite good.”

“Doesn’t it?”

“Do you mind if I take some home for my family?” spoke the mouse as he stood up on his hind legs.

“But you didn’t help me knead the dough.”

“Oh. Of course.”

“Yes. Of course.”

With her chores nearly done, the old hen knew that the bread had set long enough. Not before long, she noticed the rat at her windowsill.

“Yes?” she said directly.

“That bread,” he said timidly, “it smells good.”

“Yes, it does.”

After some time had passed, he asked, “May I have some?”

“But you didn’t help me watch the dough rise.”

The rat rubbed his long chin with his dirty paw, “Oh.”

“Good day to you, then.”

The rat had left and the old hen was finally left to enjoy her bread. It was still warm and soft, and it sliced easily. She knew that the others would not be able to enjoy what she had made. The piglets would continue to play until they’re mother called them home. The dog would chase the cat, and the cat would tease the dog – continuing their secret little tryst. The mouse would return home to his wife and children; and, although his wife would scold him for being late and making her worry, she would welcome him home and feed him mushroom stew. Even the rat found a place, as he became the king of the spiders and the flies.

She was left to enjoy her bread which tasted as she knew it would; and the others would go about their lives without knowing the savor of the bread she had made – that she could have shared with them but didn’t. The bread tasted as she knew it would, but not as sweet as she thought it might.