Wednesday, April 30, 2014

"Z" is for ZOMFG

The A to Z Blogging Challenge is at an End!

Wow! 26 posts later and we have arrived at the end of the alphabet as well as at the end of the month. So in honor of that I decided to dedicated my "Z" post to ZOMFG and ZOMG. The emphasized versions of the regular OMG and OMFG variety.

So what is ZOMFG? Pretty much the same as OMFG the only difference being the Z which originally was just a typo as people went for the shift key on their keyboards wanting an all caps OMG or OMFG and ending up with zOMFG. Today the Z is added on purpose for emphasis. 

And because gifs are fun to share I will share with you today different reactions to the virtual ZOMG reaction. Enjoy! And congratulations to all the other bloggers who made it this far!

Utter shock zOMFG

Probably my favorite.

Who hasn't had this ZOMG moment?

I don't actually use ZOMG or ZOMFG while texting or writing but I enjoy looking at the pictures and .gifs people come up with.

Do any of you use these?

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

"Y" is for You're Next

A Slasher Film with a Twist

Movie Promotional Poster
Just last week I stumbled upon You're Next on my TV and by the end of it I was really glad that the movie title started with the letter "Y." Oh and fear not, for those of you who haven't noticed, I tend to write reviews and recommendations spoiler free.

I am actually a fan of horror and suspense films and could watch them all day really. Buuuuut, just because I will watch it doesn't mean I will like it. There are very few horror movies that I find good. One of the reasons I watch films like these is part of the adventure of finding out if it will be one that I will be completely satisfied with and think to myself, "Yep, that's a masterpiece." I want to find the perfect mix of horror and awesome storytelling.

You're Next isn't perfect, almost no slasher film is. It has its share of cliché slasher deaths, especially at the beginning. You will be yelling at your TV screen for the characters (who all happen to be white) not to be so stupid because they are totally heading towards certain death. The acting is... not too bad actually, although the writing at times is questionable. And of course you will have some bloody deaths that will make you think "Was that really necessary?" 

But then came the twist, which made me like this movie enough to write a post about it and want to watch it again with someone else as I gauge their reactions to the twist in the plot.

It's this twist that is its saving grace. Otherwise I probably would have rolled my eyes at the end and started looking for something else to watch. Instead I had to tell everyone in my immediate vicinity what I had just watched.

So do I recommend this movie? Yes, if you have no particular  problem with horror, blood and guts filled scenes. If you shy away from movies like this then there isn't really much reason for you to watch it. But if you like this sort of thing I say give it a go. Like I said, it isn't perfect, but it's different and what makes it different makes it worth the watch.

Will you watch it? Have you watched it? If you have what did you think?

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Monday, April 28, 2014

"X" is for Xenocide

A Novel by Orson Scott Card

Source Goodreads

I had been wracking my brain for a good enough "X" post to write about today. I mean how many words do you know that start with "X"?

But then it came to me, I've read a book that starts with today's letter and it is a pretty good book at that.

Xenocide is the third book in the five book Ender's Game series. A science fiction series following the life of Ender who in the first book, Ender's Game, started out as a six year old genius.

In Xenocide he is now an elderly man still trying to help figure out how humankind can co-inhabit the universe with other intelligent alien beings.

One of the things I like about this book is how Card writes the alien beings in the story. They not only have their own culture and rules, they have a completely different anatomy and evolutionary process. It is all done very well and that is one thing that I look for in a book. The worlds and the people have to be believable and well thought out. And in Xenocide they are.

The only pet peeves I started to experience with this book was when it referenced past books. The fact that it referenced things that had happened before wasn't the problem. They are all part of the same Universe and storyline after all. What bothered me was that some small facts were being remembered wrong. For example, Ender was recruited to Battle School when he was six but in this book and the next they change that information to age five.

I know it's a small detail but things like that, and bad grammar in published books drives me crazy! They only do it a few times in Xenocide but start to do it more often in Children of the Mind (the next book in the series). And because of those small details I haven't finished that book yet.

I love Card and his writing style and he is one of the reasons I am really interested in continuing my exploration into science fiction literature. It is a shame though that a small thing like mixed up facts can start to turn me off when continuing his story.

Have you read Xenocide or any of the books in the Ender's Game Universe? What are your thoughts on science fiction?

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Sunday, April 27, 2014

"Q" is for Qatar

A Make-up Post

Doha Skyline. Source
"Q" was supposed to be up last week but due to some stuff, I hadn't managed to write it in on time. However, by the end of the A to Z Challenge I want to feel as if I completed what I set out to do. It won't be a perfect run but I'll at least have written a post for every letter of the alphabet within the month of April, albeit bending the rules just a tiny bit.

"Q" is for Qatar because that is the country I will be moving to in a few months. I must admit that I didn't know too much about the country so I decided to look it up on good old Wikipedia.

Qatar is an absolute monarchy and has the 2nd highest GDP per capita in the world. 14% of households are millionaires and 80% of residents are foreigners. Oh and there is no need for taxes because the State makes enough money that taxes are considered unnecessary.

This should really be an interesting experience and I am looking forward to learn more about the country and its people.

Have any of you ever visited Qatar? What do you know about it? 

Oh and if I've made any mistakes in my facts please feel free to correct me.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

"W" is for Wreck it Ralph

A Disney computer animated feature, Wreck it Ralph was released back in 2012 and the first time I saw this movie I really enjoyed it.

I enjoyed it for a variety of reasons. First off, I loved the concept. Taking a look into the world of video game characters. It's the kind of idea that makes me wish I had come up with something so original.

The characters in the world of Wreck it Ralph are free to visit other games in their arcade after closing hours. They all travel through a the main "train station" which is an outlet power strip where all the games are plugged in.

The world and concept is great in and of itself but what makes this movie a winner in my eyes is the story behind it.

We follow the story the story of Ralph, the resident "bad guy" of his arcade game Fix it Felix. He is tired of being treated like the bad guy even if that is his role in the game. He is tired of feeling lousy and wants a chance to be the hero for once.

I won't say much else so as not to ruin the story for those who haven't seen the movie just yet. The message in this movie however was a good one and one many of need to remind ourselves of. This is another animated movie that is great for adults to watch as well.

Due to the success of the movie it looks like a sequel is currently being written. I'm not sure what we will get out of that one but I hope it's just as good as the first and not a sequel flop.

Oh and interesting fact: one of the writers of the script for Wreck it Ralph was Jennifer Lee who also wrote Frozen. Awesome lady, I'll have more faith in the sequel to this movie if/when I hear that she is involved in the writing process once again.

Have you seen Wreck it Ralph?

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Friday, April 25, 2014

"V" is for Vladimir Propp

Propp Meets Anime and Manga

Anime Wallpaper source. Vladimir Propp source.

For today's A to Z Challenge post we have something totally different. 

I am a fangirl for those of you who haven't noticed, but at the same time I love looking academically at popular culture in all its forms. So for today I'm going to share the foundation of a larger essay I have been wanting to write for a some time now. It concerns a Russian scholar and the world of long running shonen anime/manga (shonen means targeted to boys but many girls love these series as well.)

Let us start with Mr. Propp whose major work concerns studying the structure and morphology of Russian fairytales. He basically dissected as many fairytales as he could and put together a list of functions that take place within any given story. While each story may be different they all follow a particular pattern that he divided up into 31 functions. Not every fairytale will have all 31 functions and they won't always be in the same exact order he lists them as but more often than not, they fall under the same path he laid out. If you are interested in looking at the list of functions you can do so here.

He also came up with seven broad character functions that can be found in each story: the villain, the dispatcher, (magical) helper, princess or prize and her father, the donor, the hero, and the false hero.

Again, not all seven have to be included and their functions can overlap. Two or three character functions can belong to one specific character in a story or the same function can belong to two or more different characters.

Now Propp isn't without his critics but it is true that his functions will work on narratives other than fairytales; movies and novels in particular. 

This is where anime and manga come in. A movie and a stand alone novel, even a book series, while being longer than the average fairytale, are still at a reasonable length of making the Propp functions work. Long running manga and anime narratives however can last for years. Popular anime and manga One Piece has been running for over 10 years and there is still a few years to go before the end. 

These long standing narratives function by working through story arcs. Mini narratives within the larger narrative that move the story along. Yet each of these arcs can still last for months at a time. And we are fed the narratives in small doses, about 20 minutes an episode (excluding commercials). Each episode with its own beginning middle and end. Although anime episodes and chapters do tend to end in cliffhangers for the most part.

Now what I find interesting is that Propp can still work within these types of narratives, he just has to be tweaked a bit because many of the functions HAVE to repeat themselves several times. Because they have to repeat so often, one would think that after a while such a series with an intended story line and specific ending thought up in advance, would become tiresome or boring.

Yet, when done correctly, it never does. The writers and artists of these types of Japanese cartoons manage to keep us hooked and entertained as long as need be to end the story. That is the reason I've been drawn to study them in a more academic fashion. They manage to maintain a similar structure for YEARS and still manage to work.

These animated series are different from the avarage Western cartoon, which while having the same characters, will not have an overall single plot line. Children's cartoons in the West follow the pattern of each episode standing on it's own or will sometimes have smaller narrative arcs that will rarely have anything to do with each other. 

The only exception I can think of off the top of my head is Avatar: Aang the Last Airbender (with a four year run). Yet this story was based on an Eastern style cartoon narrative.

Whoo! Okay I think I'll leave it at that. I could go on forever with this. But like I said it is a larger essay I've been wanting to write. I still would need to do a lot of research but I think it would be worth looking into.

Any thoughts? Or do you guys have any future projects you have in the planning stages?

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Thursday, April 24, 2014

"U" is for Underwater

My first attempt at a drabble. A drabble being a story or a piece of prose done in 100 words. 

I've enjoyed reading both Colin's and L.G.'s drabbles throughout the A to Z Challenge and decided to try writing one of my own.


Pulled under into shallow waters she struggled against the pain in her throat. She couldn't breathe and her vision blurred. She started to struggle catching the unwanted attention of Others. Instead of help she received disapproving looks. How could she pretend to drown in a pool she could easily stand in?

"It's ridiculous!" he said. "She has everything she needs."

"Attention whore!" she scoffed, "She has nothing better to do."

"She'll get over it." they say before turning away. "It's a phase."

Struggling to the top. Taking jagged breaths before falling under again.

They never understood. That her legs had broken.

"T" is for Teacher

Teacher Born on Teacher's Day

May 15th is National Teacher's Day in Mexico. It is a mini holiday (I say mini because nobody actually gets the day off) where as the name suggests, we take a moment to appreciate the teachers in our lives.

If the day happens to fall under a weekday some schools will turn it into a half day. The morning is dedicated to a few lessons and the afternoon is taken over by the students who have prepared something special for the teacher's, usually a show of some kind.

Schools who don't have half days will still celebrate the holiday in some form or another. Students, for example are encouraged by parents to bring small gifts to their teachers in thanks for all that they've done.

My birthday happens to be on Mexican Teacher's Day. And as it happens, I'm a teacher as well. I teach English and Spanish as second languages in private individual and group lessons. I really enjoy seeing my students improve and while I do like teaching adults, I feel an extra surge of pride watching the kids I teach.

I've taught kids from 6 to 17 years old and have been lucky enough, for the most part, that they have been interested enough in learning what I have to teach. 

Are there any special holidays or days celebrating teachers in your country? Do you remember your favorite teacher?


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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

"S" is for Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz

A 17th Century Feminist

Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz 1651-1695

Today's post is on a pretty awesome lady, Sor Juana. Born in colonial Mexico she showed a love of learning at a very young age. She learned to read and write by age three and at age eight she was already writing poetry.

As a teenager she asked her mother permission to disguise herself as a man so she could attend university. Her mother forbid her from doing so and so she continued studying and writing in secret.

As a young woman, instead of marrying she decided to become a nun. Some attribute this to her very religious upbringing but others state that she didn't want to be forced to live under the rule of a man. So instead she chose to live with God in her heart and continue her writing and scholarly learning.

She wrote many works but today only a handful remain. The church grew wary of her outspokenness and threatened to censor her writing (she defended the right for the education of women and girls).

Mexican 200 peso bill

Today she is thought of as a very important figure in Mexican and Spanish literary history. One of the most famous books about her was written by Octavio Paz (who I wrote about back in "O") and you can find her face on our Mexican 200 peso bills. 

We have a few books on her at home as well. My Dad is a big fan himself and who wouldn't be?

One of my favorite poems by her can be found here. It is an English translation for everyone to enjoy. It's a critique towards men and their expectations and impatience with women.

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Monday, April 21, 2014

"R" is for RR

A Spanish Tongue Twister

A double "R" in Spanish has that rolling r sound that some people from different countries are incapable of making.

In Spanish sometimes "RR" is considered a separate letter from just the simple "R". And as is with any interesting and distinctive sounds in a particular language, there are special ways that children are taught to practice such sounds.

The "RR" (erre, say it while rolling the r's) tongue twister is one of my favorite tongue twisters in Spanish and it goes a little something like this:

Erre con erre cigarro
Erre con erre barril
Rápido corren los carros cargados de fierro del ferro carril

For those not sure how this is actually supposed to sound here is a link to a YouTube video with two similar versions of the tongue twister.

The meaning of the tongue twister is not all that important since it exists merely to help with pronunciation. But for the curious the translation is something like: Erre with erre cigarette; erre with erre barrel. The cars on the train run fast loaded with iron.

Erre doesn't mean anything in particular.

Are there any tongue twisters your fond of from your own language? Or a second language you know?

p.s. My "Q" post ran into some delays but I still want to have something on Q. It will be uploaded out of order this coming Sunday as a catch up. I will manage 26 posts this month!

Friday, April 18, 2014

"P" is for Prince Roger

Prince Roger walking backwards of a cliff

Okay so today's post is not so much about Prince Roger as it is about the book he is in, "A Barrel of Laughs A Vale of Tears". A children's book by Jules Feiffer that is a fun, quirky and interesting read.

If you've read my previous posts pertaining to books, you might notice that I really enjoy books that interact in some way with the reader. Really, I think what it is is that I like it when an author decides to do something a little different. I love it when authors play.

A Barrel of Laughs a Vale of Tears tells the story of Prince Roger who with his mere presence makes people laugh uncontrollably. There is no seriousness when he is around and he is simply happy all the time. He is sent on a quest by a wizard to gain some experience which might help him be easier to be around.

That's the overall plot, which is nice in and of itself, but what really wins me over in the book is the play element. There are many authors who say that their characters will sometimes take on a life of their own and that they are barely controllable. Feiffer's characters will sometimes right out ignore him.

For example, a character who was simply supposed to be part of the book for nine pages decides to stay longer. He later leaves the book in a fit of rage and later jumps back in. He becomes a more principal character than what was expected of him.

The narrator knows he is being read and addresses the reader from time to time. Sometimes dedicating whole chapters (short chapters) to explaining a certain event or part of the story.

However, I do want to point out that this works because the main plot is interesting and well written. Simply putting in random quirks just for the sake of being different would have been annoying after a while.

A good children's book is always more than just for children. So if you are looking for a feel good read or want to study a writing technique that plays with the reader, I recommend this book.

Are there any children's books that you have a soft spot for?

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