Thursday, January 24, 2013

Game of Thrones Revisited

A few months ago, I wrote about reading The Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin. I have since read books two through four of the series, and I have to revise my original thoughts on the series. First of all, my excitement after reading the first book has diminished significantly, and I've been having second and third thoughts about even finishing the series. I think the only reason I'm really sticking with it now is that I've invested so much in reading the four books I have.

Don't get me wrong, this book is still the elaborate and complex political drama that I praised it for being in my last post on this subject. What I don't like is what Martin does with some of the characters. I can understand making characters suffer and dragging them through the dirt--that's part of what makes a lot of stories good. I can even understand some character death (and here I mean the characters you might want to champion, not the baddies), although I do shy away from needless character death. Here, Martin has crossed a line a few times too many for me.

---SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW & A BIT OF A RANT--- (skip this next 2 paragraphs if you want to avoid)

This is going to be a bit of a rant. I could shrug off Ned Stark's death even if I didn't like it. That didn't break my enjoyment in the story. I felt bad for Catelyn with Bran and Ricken's "deaths" and the deaths of the two children who died in their place didn't sit well with me, but as they were unnamed characters it was easier to detach from that incident. However, the real turning point for me was at the Red Wedding. What Martin did to Robb and Catelyn made me feel physically ill. I had to reread the last page of that chapter several times to make sure I'd read it right. From that point on I've really struggled to keep reading these books. Sure a few chapters later, Martin threw a bone in my direction and killed off Joffrey, but it wasn't nearly enough to entice me back to the story. I also do not appreciate how in book four we spend many chapters following Brienne who is spending every effort to fulfill her vow to Catelyn in whatever way she still can only to have her hung near the end of the book--really, what is the point in even following these characters? I didn't feel revulsion as much as I was honestly angry after reading this. Killing her at that point served almost no purpose in the book other than to maybe show how irrational the revenant version of Catelyn is. The only positive that came out of book four was Cersei's disgrace, and as her skin is still intact and has not been flayed off or something equally nasty, I am far from appeased. I've been told that my favorite, Jon Snow, makes it through book five, but I'm still not sure if that's enough to get me to read the next book, especially given the general pattern that characters (not just in this series) I get attached to tend to die. There's supposed to be two more books published after #5; I honestly hold out little to no hope that Lord Snow will make it through to the end.

I guess it's also worth noting that my respect for Sansa has increased since the last post I wrote. I think it helped that she quit mooning over Joffrey quite so much. She reminded me a bit too much of the cheerleader archetype, and I never liked people (girls especially) who go with the crowd even when it goes against their better judgment--I'm thinking specifically of the incident when Sansa turned against Arya when Nymeria bit Joffrey in the first book. I guess I will also add that I appreciate that characters do change, and sometimes (even in this series) it's actually for the better.


 So, I could be completely wrong, and regardless of what I said, I'm still probably going to finish the series. Maybe I'm just a glutton for punishment. I guess you could say I have a real love-hate relationship here. XD I did get Dance of Dragons from the library; I haven't read past the prologue yet though. Although, to be fair, a lot of that is because I've been so busy lately I haven't had the chance to pick up a book to read for fun. I'm considering returning the book and checking out the audio book instead. That way I could listen to the book (with headphones, of course--these books are so not appropriate for younger ears) while working on other projects.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Puella Magi Madoka Magica

I mentioned earlier this month that I spent a lot of November and December really sick. I was more than sick enough to warrant a run through all of Pride & Prejudice. To my dismay, I finished that along with the first 3 discs of the third season of Avatar: the Last Airbender and had not bounced back. Usually taking a day to just rest is enough to get me back on my feet. Not this time. In fact, I went through all of BBC's Sherlock (twice), Puella Magi Madoka Magica, most of Sword Art Online, finished Durarara!, and a bunch of other stuff. Needless to say, I'm going to have a lot to write about. =P

On the recommendation of a good con-going friend, one of the first series I sat down to watch after Anime USA was Puella Magi Madoka Magica--being sick just moved my plans for what to watch forward a little faster. I had heard that this series was good but dark. Other than that I came to the series with very little idea of what to expect. Okay, so I did know that it was a magical girl series--the title kind of gave that away. Speaking of which, that title is a mouthful. Seriously, try saying it 3 times fast. I can barely get it out right once. XD Anyways, as far as expectations went, yes, the series was good, was dark, and, true to its title, involved magical girls.

One of the first surprises I got with this series was that it was short. It's only 12 episodes. I'm used to series running closer to 26 episodes. I think one reason why the series managed to have such a rich story and be so short was that it clearly understands the genre it belongs to and the conventions that come with that, and it clearly has fun playing with those conventions.

The series revolves primarily around a girl named Madoka (I'm sure that's also obvious from the title), and her friends. Kyubey, the token cute pet thing, singles out girl with the potential to be magical girls. He offers to grant one wish and in return the girl must become a magic girl and fight witches. That's the basic premise of the series; I'm not sure I could say much more without giving away too much.You'll just have to go watch the series. =P It's definitely worth it.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The New Normal

For my last post, I talked about getting back to normal and how I have come to the conclusion that I don't think there will ever be a normal like the normal I want to get back to. That said, I think there's going to be some good stuff coming from 2013.

I've had to come to terms with the high probability that I won't see everything I'd love to see done finished in 2013 (or even 2014 or 2015). So, you might ask: what exactly do we expect to see from 2013 (realistically). Well, my husband and I started the year off by listing all the projects (or in some cases types of projects) we wanted to spend our year working on. We narrowed the list down to five things--actually it was only supposed to be three, but I made the argument that one project was going to be just my husband's (even though it really isn't) and I added another as an afterthought because I forgot to put it on the original list, so that one sneaked in through the back door so to speak. =P Yeah, I think we can see a little bit of my ADD personality mixed with my inability to commit to getting one thing done at a time.

Here's what's on our list, at least to start with. First up is the Anime RPG book (and other Team Sidequest, the game company, related stuff like that new card game we had at Magfest). There is some art I really really want to redo. Plus we're editing and making some adjustments based on feedback we have received since the book's initial release. I am looking for some print-on-demand options, but aside from that we won't be releasing the book in print again. We are looking at getting the book released digitally in a variety of ebook formats. This is the project that's supposed to be just my husband's. =P

Next up, we are planning on making extensive use of our new buttonmaker (you can find our current design selection in the button section on the gallery page of my website). For me buttons are going to be my outlet for drawing for all of my favorite things in epic quantities (like Full Metal Alchemist). At the top of my drawing list right now is Code Geass and My Little Pony. Those will be followed by lots and lots of Final Fantasy (I, IV, VI, VII, VIII, IX, X, XII, and XIII to start with XD). There will also be lots of FMA. I am planning a giant marathon session where I will draw pretty much anyone and everyone from that series. XD I'm only a little obsessed with it. There will be others, but that's where I'm starting (that's probably more than enough to start with). Some of these designs will go to bookmark or postcard-size print instead of as a button, but most will be buttons.

After buttons, we have cosplay. We made cosplay it's on section and although I have a blue-zillion plans and ideas, we've settled on Halo as the one project we're actually going to try and finish first. Team Sidequest (our D&D/cosplay/game/whatever else group) is planning on going to Animazement with a lot of helmets from the Halo armor costumes. These will eventually be followed by the full suits of armor and we will be cosplaying from Red vs. Blue, which I should probably sit down and watch at some point. XD The Halo cosplay project will be followed by finishing the Mare Do Well cosplay I wanted to make for Halloween. There will be more...much more...but this is a start.

The fourth project choice (my third *cough*) is still waffling. I want to make some more movie poster parodies along the lines of The Dark Mare Rises print. I have ideas for a Hobbit/Bioshock cross and Full Metal Alchemist/Avengers cross. On the other hand, I also have lots of ideas for drawing ponies...lots and lots of ponies...lots and lots of things that should not be drawn as ponies but I really really want to draw as ponies. XD This might be one of those things I go back and forth on for a little bit.

The final project thing I'll be working on is a list of gifts and personal projects. I have several baby blankets to make for friends (ideally to be finished while their kids are still babies =P). I also have some things I want to make for the house and for Sophie and stuff like that, so yeah.

Anyways, that's what we're going to be working on to start with. There's of course lots of other things I want to work on. I can't do it all though, so some of it will have to wait. =P

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Back to Normal?

I want to say things are getting back to normal after the insanity that was 2012, except I'm not sure that would be entirely accurate. We are still adjusting to many of the changes from 2012, and some things won't ever really be the same. In that vein, it isn't possible to get "back" to the way things were. Things are going to be different. Still, I can say that things are stabilizing to some extent.

We moved into a new house in 2012. We still aren't 100% settled, but the garage is probably 75% cleaned out (meaning we can actually use it for a car instead of just an attached storage unit). I won't go into the state of my craft room. It's not nearly as clean as it was when I blogged about it last year. XD I need to get up there and sort through the post-AWA-Halloween-AUSA mess so that it can be usable again--I'm hoping this will happen in the next week or so because I really hate working from the kitchen table, but I'm sure I've already said that somewhere around here before (probably several times before).

We added kid #4 to our family in 2012. She has been an amazing addition, but she has also been a very needy one. She is settling into a routine, so I'm starting to get consistent windows of free time. This is good because there were days in 2012 where I wondered if I really was going crazy and might just be the next big news story (Mom goes nuts and blows up house or something like that--I'd like to imagine that if I went crazy it'd involve something like a dragon slave along the lines of Lina Inverse from Slayers). I'll be the first to say I've had mixed feelings about having #4. She was not planned, but I'd like to highlight the "she" pronoun. She is my only girl; our family has been all boy all the time. The only chances I thought I had of balancing out some of that testosterone was by adding a couple of girl cats. We were so convinced that Sophie was going to be another boy that we didn't have a girl middle name picked out when she was born--we don't find out what gender beforehand--and we only had the first name because it was something we'd talked about before (like if we ever did have a girl we'd like to name her Sophie because it was a name my husband and I both liked kind of thing).

On the subject of kids, we also picked a different curriculum set to use for the 2012-2013 school year with the kids (I homeschool for those who don't already know this--maybe I should put up a blog post about this sometime since it make up a large part of my life right now even if it isn't directly related to my art). Anyways, that curriculum was not working for us. This leads to a 2013 change (yes, we've already managed to work a major change into the first week of 2013). I think one of the benefits of homeschooling is that if something is not working, I am free to change it. We are starting a new curriculum (yesterday was our first day back to school from the holidays), and so far, so good. It's still an adjustment because this meant throwing everything I had prepared out the door (but I am glad that it is working better so far--kind of hard to judge after just one day).

Back on the subject of the new move, this meant finding a new scout pack for the boys. We also joined a new Homeschool Coop group, and signed the boys up for some coop classes with the idea they might get exposed to some subjects I was disinclined to teach. That plus the new house plus the new baby plus a lot of other things (like my husband having to teach a night class the same night as scouts) ended up being a bit more than I could handle. For 2013 we have dropped the coop classes--they were fun, but they weren't anything exceptional, so no more of that. We're keeping with scouts because they pack they're in now does some really awesome things, so I think the boys are getting more out of it (plus they have a group for girls so Sophie can join in with all the same activities the boys are doing when she gets a little older). It also helps that my husband will not have a night class conflicting with scouts this semester.

Finally, one thing that is 100% improved from 2012 is my health. My husband and I both caught bronchitis and spent the last month of 2012 obscenely sick and in survival mode. It would have been nice for life to have taken a break so we could have taken some time to actually get better instead of dragging it out so much. never happens that way. However, I am happy to say I am better now, just in time for 2013 (maybe this is a sign of more good things to come or at least a better year?).

TLDR? The jist of this post is that I'm really working hard to get to a place where I can post on my blog regularly, where I can get consistent time to draw, and where I can follow up on all the fun projects and ideas (many of which I've mentioned here, but not all--I've still got a few surprises up my sleeve). It's getting there. Things may still be a little hit or miss as we go through 2013. No matter what though, I'm still going to be here, and I'm going to keep working on my art and craft projects. Here's to an awesome 2013.