Monday, October 16, 2017

Episode 4 - The Alchemist's Anguish

I see this as the first episode in which Brotherhood really begins to diverge from the '03 anime. The episode begins with one of my favorite characters from Brotherhood. 

And there goes this Basque Grand, which is fine by me. I didn't like him very much in the '03 anime, so cheers to his early demise. Plus, I am a bit biased towards Scar.

Beyond this point though the episode ranks as FMA's more depressing episodes. I think that can be said for both versions of the anime. 

Introducing this episodes creepy evil guy with squinty eyes drawn to make him look like a loving father figure. He reminds me a lot of Cornello at this point. This was never a connection a made until I started pulling screen shots and writing this stuff up, but both Tucker and Cornello start out looking sweet and relaxed with their eyes closed. As the episode progresses and we see more of Tucker's dark side, his eyes gradually open, and the lighting in his scenes gets darker, much like it did with Cornello. The only difference is the timing. Cornello goes evil fairly quickly, while Tucker takes most of the episode to show his true colors.

All these fun scenes with Ed, Al, Nina, and Alexander. They're bright and cheerful. They really want to make you love these guys. 

The eyes are starting to open. Clearly the happy times from the middle of the episode are not going to last...
 Nope... probably one of the worst scenes in the series.

The eyes are wide open now, and he's going on about how what he did wasn't really that wrong because science. Yeah... No... This was a great idea, said no one ever. 

And the end of Tucker and Nina. In the '03 anime, Scar only stumbled upon Nina. Here he has intentionally tracked down Tucker. He ends both of them here.

At this stage, I remember wondering where the story would go as both Basque Grand and Tucker played larger, although still secondary, rolls in the '03 anime. It might be worth adding here that I have not read the manga, so all of this was entirely new to me the first time I watched through it.  I found it quite exciting, as I especially disliked the Lab 5 episodes from the original anime, and without Tucker they would clearly change. 

This episode plays on what I think are two of FMA's major themes: the value of human life and ethics in science. Ed is greatly distressed by Nina's transformation and loss of humanity, and then, in spite of what Tucker has done, Nina still loves her father and values his life, which she demonstrates when Ed attacks Tucker and again after Scar has killed Tucker. And, although there is some justice in Tucker's death, there is only sadness for Nina and Alexander. Their deaths feel cruel and wrong. This episode sucks... period. It introduces Scar, and sets up themes, but overall still leaves a bitter aftertaste.

Friday, October 13, 2017

What I'm Watching - Fairy Tail

I'm even more behind the times with this one. I finally sat down to watch Fairy Tail. I've made it through the 48 episodes they have on Netflix. I enjoyed it. I'd love if Netflix had more of it. Now, I know I can watch it on Crunchyroll, but I can't get the Crunchyroll app on my tablet, and my tablet tends to be what I watch this stuff on as I often run it while walking on a treadmill and similar activities. (Side note: if anyone knows how to side load the Crunchyroll app onto a Kindle Fire 8, please let me know.)

Fairy Tail reminded me of a cross between One Piece and Slayers. I had watched a couple of episodes years ago when it first came out and never got into it. I never got into One Piece either. It's just not my thing. I did love Slayers though. Now that I have a treadmill so I can exercise even when it's abysmally hot and humid outside, I've started watching more things on my tablet, which is cool because it's been a while since I've been able to watch much of anything. Now if only Crunchyroll would work on the tablet...

I enjoyed Fairy Tail, although it took a little while for me to really get into it. I initially did not like either Lucy or Natsu, and given that they are 2 of the main characters... They have grown on me though. I like that they've made Lucy a stronger wizard because at the beginning she seemed weak compared to the others, and she never seemed to contribute much to their adventures. She got better--I especially liked her episodes with Loke. My favorite characters are Loke and Gray. I also like Erza and Levy a lot. I'm hoping I get time to watch more on Crunchyroll, or maybe Netflix will release more of it, because I'd really like to see more of it.

I won't say Fairy Tail was particularly brilliant, but it was still good. It was a fun series, which kept things generally positive--like the heroes were able to win most of the time. It's one of those feel-good series, and that's the kind of thing I've been really enjoying lately. Life is dark enough; I prefer to keep my entertainment on the lighter side.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Episode 3 - City of Heresy

The Liore episodes from the '03 anime rank as some of my least favorite episodes from the original anime. Mainly, I think the science vs religion stance annoyed me. This is a personal thing for me. Anyways, Ed gets fairly preachy about it, so I'm pretty sure the Liore episode from Brotherhood is going to stay at the top of my least favorite episodes. ... Moving on...
 Look, here's Ed being a jerk to Rose. Maybe another thing that kind of rubs me wrong about this episode is that Ed argues here how "cheap" human life really is, when they spend a lot of time discussing how priceless it is, like how it cost him a leg and Al his whole body to attempt to return life to their mother. Basically the value of human life is something no one person could truly pay. But then, given the form Al has taken, maybe this isn't too contradictory if you consider a person's body as a separate entity from their soul. Anyways, I still think Ed's a jerk for mocking Rose.
And here's another jerk. Lol. This episode is full of them. Squinty-eyed bastard disguised as a loving father-figure.
Squinty eyes and slanty eye-brows... starting to show his true colors.
Yep... there they are. The lighting gradually gets darker around Cornello so that there are more shadows on his face, you know, in case we weren't sure this guy is supposed to be sinister. =P
And here's Cornello showing off his "power" by manipulating a Rose. Brilliant.
Yep... that went well. Now she's even more traumatized.
And to show that Cornello really doesn't care about his followers, in case having Rose try to kill the Elrics wasn't enough, he opens fire on her. The whole scene was really stuipd of him, imo, considering she is probably one of his most devoted followers. Really, though, as far as villains go, Cornello belongs on the level of Scooby Doo. He's cliched and makes obvious mistakes. He isn't clever. He's just an arrogant and greedy. Moving on...
First picture of one of my favorite additions to Ed's character for Brotherhood. Gotta level Ed's style. He doesn't just create an opening in the wall; he creates an elaborate set of double doors. Ed's style is over-the-top. It's excessive to the point of being tacky. At the same time, I think it's brilliant, because if you've gotta do something like that, why not make it look awesome too.
This is really just beautiful.
More of Ed's style. He's going for intimidation here because I'm pretty sure that wouldn't be useful for much of anything. I especially like that one serrated edge. It's kind of like an over-large can-opener.
The episode concludes by getting Cornello to monologue because that's what bad guys do...
And the cliched trap. Yep that was on for the entire monologue. But then, like I said, Cornello's not a very clever villain, so he was super easy to beat.
And here's Ed being a jerk again (personal opinion). I mean his over-all message is good, but his communication is insensitive. Or maybe it's just puberty rearing it's ugly head. I do live with a pair of teenagers and they can say some completely inappropriate things and think they're being either sensitive or funny when they're really not. Anyways.

Aside from setting up discontent in Liore, introduce a few characters like Rose, and show off that the Philosopher's stone can be faked or used up (this was shown in episode 1, but Ed didn't see that one disappear), this episode does not contribute much to the development of the story. Bonus: it only took one episode in Brotherhood. It's the little things.

And then there's these guys at the very very end:

Yeah, I bet that symbol's important, given the lovely slobbery up-close we get of it.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Classic Films - Episode 6

We get two this week for the price of one. Since the last film was such a depressing topic, we needed a healthy dose of humor to remind us that there are good things in life too. The first film on today’s menu is “Raising Arizona” starring a true master of insanity Nicolas Cage and the ever-funny Helen Hunt.

So to understand this film well you have to know a little bit about the directors. The Coen Brothers are one of those directorial teams that have created a bunch of great films from “The Big Lebowski” to “Oh Brother Where art Thou.” They are quite the film scholars so their films often make sly references to older movies and genre tropes. Their films are a but strange and not for everybody. I hated their film “Fargo” but mostly from the exaggerated Minnesota accents and the repetitive “Ja” that’s in every single line but I can forgive them for being eccentric since I’ve generally enjoyed their other films.

“Raising Arizona” is one of the Coen brothers’ earlier movies and it follows an unsuccessful robber named Hi who keeps trying to stick up gas stations using empty guns because he doesn’t want to hurt anyone. He falls in love with the police photographer, which is cutely shown through a series of arrests in which they spend a minute or two talking each time. Each scene is shown in a montage generally skipping the long periods in between where Hi serves his time for his crime. Finally, Hi gives up crime and proposes to Ed and they settle down to live the typical American family life.
A small problem arises when the couple discover that they can’t have children. They then hatch a ridiculous plan to steal a baby from a local unfinished furniture store owner who had quintuplets because his wife used fertility drugs. Hi and Ed steal a baby and through a series of mishaps involving a couple of Hi’s old convict buddies and a bounty hunter, Hi and Ed realize that they shouldn’t have taken the child and return him. While the two initially talk about divorce, the film ends with them in bed and Hi has a dream in which we see their future as a loving old couple surrounded by a large family of children and grandkids. It’s a hopeful ending to an otherwise silly journey.

The film follows an old comedy genre called the screwball, which was really popular in the late 1930s and early 1940s. This genre typically followed a married couple who split up and then through a series of unlikely events would rekindle their love with one another. Sometimes the couple aren’t married and just fall in love but they are almost always opposites of one another. One is poor, the other rich. One is educated, the other isn’t. And so forth. In “Raising Arizona” Hi breaks the law, while Ed upholds it.

Screwballs are also marked by witty dialog particularly between the two romantic interests. There are loads of just ridiculous conversations in “Raising Arizona.” At one point Hi’s criminal friends show up and Ed asks them if they broke out of prison. They respond by saying that they released themselves of their own recognizance because they felt the correctional institution no longer had anything to offer them. When Hi and Ed welcome Nathan Jr., the stolen baby, into their home Hi points to the TV and says, “That there’s the television. No more than two hours a day either educational or football so you don’t ruin your appreciation for the finer things.”

Lastly, screwball comedies are most well-known for absurd situations and events. Possibly, the best scene in the film occurs when Hi, frustrated at his attempts to live properly, holds up a convenience store to get diapers. Ed sees him and drives away leaving Hi alone with an unloaded gun, police sirens blaring, and a pack of Huggies. What follows is a hilarious sequence in which Hi is chased throughout the suburbs and a grocery store by some gun-happy police, a pack of dogs, and a vindictive shopkeeper with a shotgun. All the while, Hi is trying to keep his grip on the diapers.

Screwball comedies were popular during a time when the institution of marriage was under severe question as states were legalizing divorce. People felt that the bed-rock of the family unit was under attack but screwballs emerged as hopeful reminders that marriage can withstand rocky patches. Some great screwballs of the past include “It Happened One Night,” “His Girl Friday,” and “Bringing Up Baby.” “Raising Arizona” is a nice tribute to a forgotten genre but it’s also a funny movie on its own. My kids really enjoyed it. While I don’t think they were as interested with the film’s presentations of the American family dream as I was, they liked the silly sequences and the slapstick humor.

Our second film for today is “Brain Donors.” What can be said about this film except that it’s sheer lunacy. Our cast of characters include Flakfizer, an ambulance-chasing lawyer/con man played by John Toturro, a cab driver named Rocco played by comedian Mel Smith, and a handy-man named Jacques played by Bob Nelson. These three nutballs hatch a plan to start a ballet company in order to scam a wealthy widow by fulfilling her dead husband’s last wish. What results is a zany series with the slapstick comedy of the Three Stooges and fast-talking verbal humor of the Marx brothers.

“Brain Donors” came out in 1992 and was produced by the Zucker brothers whose other comedies include “Airplane!” and “Ruthless People.” I missed it in the theaters but that’s not surprising since the studio pulled the film after initial screenings performed poorly. After renting the movie, it quickly moved into one of my favorite comedies. However, it’s sort of an odd duck and will either make you snort with laughter or the puns will make you groan.

My 10-year old couldn’t stop laughing. He greatly enjoyed the finale of the film in which our three intrepid heroes purposefully ruin a ballet performance in order to win back their ballet company. For the most part, the film is pretty dumb. The villains are your stereotypical greedy lawyer and a stuck-up bully of a ballet dancer. There’s a side-plot involving a “nice” ballerina and her boyfriend that seems sort of tacked on. The wealthy dowager is a fool whose opinion and goals sway with every gentle breeze. She allows Flakfizer to mock her publically and generally forgets important things within moments because it would be inconvenient for the plot.

However, there’s a lot to enjoy about “Brain Donors.” There’s some wonderfully silly lines. Flakfizer flirts with the widow by saying he can’t wait to take her on a Carribbean cruise where they can watch the old Jamaican moon. “Why the old Jamaican will be mooning us, I have no idea,” he remarks. This is an obvious nod to Groucho Mark’s classic joke about shooting an elephant in his pajamas and then wondering why the elephant was wearing his pajamas.

After our trio breaks into a hospital by pretending to be doctors, they are arrested and we are treated to a bunch of gags as one of the characters has to empty his pockets and he just keeps dumping random stuff on the desk including a rubber snake, a fire extinguisher, and a bicycle pump. It’s over the top but really that’s the point of these films. The characters break social norms and the laws of nature and they do it joyfully. They set fire to a woman’s hat. They play basketball on a ballet stage. They jump out windows to pick flowers. It’s a bunch of nonsense. One of my son’s favorite scenes involved the greedy lawyer shouting, “This is nonsense,” to which Flakfizer responds, “You’re wrong. This is nonsense.” He then points to Jacques who starts imitating a monkey and then eats a candle.

Some of the humor is a bit adult. Flakfizer casually comments that “Two’s company and three’s an adult movie.” However, the slapstick jokes are well-suited for a young child’s sense of humor. In order to annoy the ballet jerk, the main characters have a few dozen pizzas and a singing lobster delivered to his dressing room. I was paying attention to the potty humor this time around and was surprised at how little there actually was of it. I think my kids were able to get more of the jokes in “Brain Donors” than “Raising Arizona” but they still laughed at them both. It was a fun night of guffaws and absurdity.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

WIP Wednesday - 2017 - Volume 13

I really enjoyed Guardians of the Galaxy 2, so here's a couple of chibi sketches from that movie. If I don't get too distracted, this will become part of a set of buttons.

Gotta love bad cell phone pics at weird hours of the knight so the lighting is all messed up. But, beggars can't be choosers, and I don't tend to be conscious when I'm home and have access to my scanner. =P At least not when I'm thinking about posting these updates...

Monday, October 2, 2017

Episode 2 - The First Day

Episode 2 -- The First Day

This is the obligatory backstory episode. We see our protagonists, Ed and Al, as kids. We see them learning alchemy. We see the death of their mother. They quickly cover their training and plans to bring their mother back. We see their failed attempt to bring their mother back.

Something I noticed in the first episode was that every time the philospher's stone was used or even discussed, the screen had a red filter over it.
In the '03 FMA the philosopher's stone was associated with human transmutation and the death, so assuming that those things are also connected in Brotherhood, the red over the Elric house before their attempt to bring back their mother not only creates a foreboding atmosphere, it also potentially foreshadows what they will learn during their search for the philosopher's stone and a way to get their bodies back. 

We see a little of what happens during their failed transmutation from Ed's perspective. He meets "God," who is all things. It is a representation of everything that exists in the world, which when including ideas and things on conceptual levels is very vague--maybe this is why it is essentially a blank figure with only a suggestion of an outline. 

There is also the door. In the '03 anime this was a one way ticket to Germany. In Brotherhood, it is a doorway to truth. The tree on the door is reminiscent of old alchemical manuscripts or possibly the Biblical reference to the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (although I believe both of these are historically related on some level).

In the present Mustang, while under the pretense of discussing the report for the events of last episode, brings up alchehestry. Then he gets to explain how Ed got to be a State Alchemist. I liked the way Riza and Roy kind of finished each other's sentences when she was talking with Winry and he with Ed. I'm a firm supporter of the Roy x Riza ship. We fast forward through Ed getting his automail and get our first hint of the Ed x Winry pairing with the playful and flirty bickering, and Winry declaring that he was stuck with her as long as he had her automail.
We also get another nugget of information hinting at what's to come. Al mentions that Ed can transmute without a circle just like their teacher, and Ed seems a little surprised that Al can't. 

Next we move on to Ed taking the exam, Ed wins his position by being brash and showing off that he doesn't need a circle.

Yep, attacking the Furor is a brilliant idea, not that Ed could likely even lay a finger on him. Between this scene and the Furor's fight with the Freezing Alchemist in Episode 1, it's pretty clear there's more to him than meets the eye. At the very least, he is a very capable and very agile fighter.

I'm pretty sure this episode covered at least 5 episodes from the '03 anime. I do have trouble watching the '03 version now because so many of the episodes just feel like filler after having watched Brotherhood--and admittedly some of the filler episodes were excellent (Fullmetal vs Flame and Warehouse 13 being 2 of my favorites). I remember my mind being blown the first time I watched this episode. They were flying through everything that had been familiar from the first anime. At the time, I expected Brotherhood to either be very short or have a lot of new content. This excited me because I had not been satisfied with the ending to the '03 anime--either the series or the additional ending provided by the movie. I also wanted more of the characters. Anyways, I'm rambling now, so I think I'll stop here. 

Friday, September 29, 2017

What I've been Watching - Guardians of the Galaxy 2

Aside from catching Wonder Woman before it left theaters, I'm as usual behind the times. I finally got around to seeing Guardians of the Galaxy 2. I have to say: It was not what I expected.

I had been led to expect it to be meh, especially compared to the first. This seemed to be a reasonable expectation. The first movie was excellent. It is a well known fact that sequels hardly ever hold up to the original. Most of my friends who had seen it, had confirmed that although decent, was hardly anything to get excited about.

So, I expected it to be meh. Except, it wasn't. I found it funny and very entertaining. This surprised me because I usually find incessant bickering annoying, but for some reason this one didn't. My theory is that Quill calling Rocket "Trash Panda" tickled my funny bone, so I think I was more inclined to find the rest of the movie amusing following that scene.

I liked the way the handled Nebula and Gamora. Quill's father was obnoxious--maybe that's where Quill got it from because his mother seemed decent. =P

There were some parts that were less polished. There were some weak elements to the plot and the way the story progressed. My opinion on this is that if you're looking for a movie that is brilliant, then this isn't the movie for you. You need to go find one of those Oscar award-winning dramas that the critics like. Over all. Loved it. I laughed my butt off, which I needed so badly. Life needs less stress and more laughter. Always.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

WIP Wednesday - 2017 - Volume 12

This week's WIP is a little more on my crochet amigurumi plushies. I have part of a blue calico fox finished--only one ear, and it's not completely attached yet. XD

I'm working on some art to go with the plushies. The finished art will go on tags that will be packaged with the plushie. Here are some sketches I have for the kitties. Right now, I'm trying to decide between styles--more detailed or go simple. I kind of like both. I will probably finish and color these and see how they look before deciding. I may also try drawing some of the other animals in both styles as well because what works for the cats may or may not work for the bunnies and foxes as well--or any of the other animals I'm planning on making.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Brotherhood Ep 1

Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood is one of my favorite series of all times. For me, it is amazingly rich in character and story. So, I've been itching for an excuse to re-watch it and really sit down and examine it in detail. I also am blanking on what to write for my blog for tomorrow (today technically since it's past midnight), so I'm going to start a series devoted to FMAB, which will probably be quite long--or not if I get distracted. Anyways, there will be spoilers because it's hard to talk about anything in any real detail and not have spoilers. Fair warning. So, onwards to Episode 1:

Episode 1 - The Full Metal Alchemist

The first episode of a series is undeniably important. It's the hook. It has to be able to draw viewers in so that they keep watching. I believe this episode does that quite well.

I usually associated this with Armstrong in the original
FMA anime. I like this expansion of Ed's character.
First of all it starts in the middle rather the beginning. Edward is already a State Alchemist. They are already going full force on their goal of getting their bodies back. Although this does little to establish motivation, I don't think it is needed at this stage in the series. It's more important to draw interest with intriguing plot and character elements rather than explain everything from the beginning. Leave questions. It's a good thing. At least in my opinion.

Second, the Elric's backstory does not hijack the episode. We do get a flashback, but it's only a brief part of the story. It's hardly the whole story, and it's not so much that it distracts from current events within the episode. Again, don't give us everything all at once.

I like how the series introduces characters in this episode. It uses characters talking about other characters mixed with scene changes. For example before the opening credits, we see an unnamed alchemist drawing a transmutation circle in the alley. No other info. The scene changes, and we go to Mustang and the Furor discussing "The Freezing Alchemist"--clearly the guy we just saw in the alley. Rough hierarchy between Mustang and the Furor is established. The topic shifts to Edward Elric, using the titles and nicknames commonly used to reference him. Then scene changes to the Elric brothers.

I appreciate how this episode uses action to demonstrate what characters can do: for instance using a chase to show how the Freezing Alchemist uses his powers rather than just going over them in the briefing earlier in the episode.

On the surface, this episode appears to be filler--fun and full of action, but still filler. It also brings in fun characters like Maes Hughes and Armstrong earlier in the series rather than waiting. It's a strong opening episode. It sets the tone for the rest of the series. It establishes that we can expect characters other than the Elrics to play stronger roles--this is one of my favorite things about this series. It also sets up the Elrics' goals, Mustang's ambition, Edward's lack of interest in his actual job, and sows seeds that suggest that there is some kind of general discontent with the current government. There is a bit of seriousness--combat scenes and the plot of the episode itself. It is balanced with some comedic elements--Edward and Armstrong both modify their attacks in funny ways, Armstrong loses his shirt on at least 2 occasions during the episode, and the general shenanigans of Hughes. I like series like this. I like to laugh, but I also appreciate good strong characters and an engaging plot.

And, because I can, here's some more screenshots of things I like.

I'm sure you can tell that Armstrong is one of my favorite characters. XD Interestingly, Armstrong reminds me of my great uncle. He was tall, very muscly, bald, had a blond mustache, talked about family tradition, and held the same rank in the military during World War II. Sadly he passed away in the late 1990s, but this connection probably contributes significantly to my love of this character.

Anyways... I don't know where I'm going with this. I'd like to go through the entire series, but I don't know how often I'll post about it. I'd like to say I have a more coherent direction or plan, but no, it's probably just going to be me rambling about things I like or things I notice. XD

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

WIP Wednesday - 2017 - Volume 11

This week, I'm going to share a little more progress on the ties. We've gotten in some new fabrics, not pictured. We ran into problems with several of the fabric designs--our fault, not the printer's. With the first round of fabrics, one print was entirely too large--as in unworkable. With the new set of fabric prints 2 out of the 4 were printed too large. One for the same reason as the first, but not as unworkable. The design will fit on the tie, but it cuts it close and won't look as good as the final design. With the other, it's a tiled pattern similar to the Pokemon design, but the pattern printed too large. Clearly we can still make ties out of it, but they're not going to be exactly what I want. We're debating what to do with the messed up designs now. Do we go ahead and turn them into ties and then sell at a discount? Do we just toss the fabric? Do we try and come up with something else to do with it? We're not sure yet. The most frustrating thing is keeping the bloody pattern straight because the fabric shifts so easily and then you end up with something crooked. Stupid shiny slippery fabric. Grr. But anyways. Here's some progress pictures of the Pokemon ties.

Monday, September 18, 2017


Mysterium is one of the new games we picked up after Magfest. I think it might be my husband's new favorite game.

For those who don't know what Mysterium is, it is a tabletop game that plays a bit like a mix between Clue and Dixit.

There is one player who plays the ghost of a murdered person. Everyone else is playing psychics who are trying to figure out who killed the person, with what, and where. The ghost knows, but can't talk. What the ghost can do is share cards with clues on them to help the psychic players figure out what happened. The cards have strange pictures on them, so it's not usually obvious what the ghost is trying to communicate. You have a certain number of rounds to figure everything out. It's cooperative, so everyone wins or everyone loses.

I hate hate hate hate playing the ghost. I did it once, and no one, not one, ever figured out what I was trying to communicate. I might have given myself a concussion from hitting my own head on the table in frustration. My husband, on the other hand, loves being the ghost. I guess this works though, because I'm 100% content to let him have that role. Overall, it's not my favorite, but it's still a fun game.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Classic Films - Episode 5

So, I missed posting a WIP for Wednesday morning. I ended up working 8 nights in a row last week, and I pretty much slept from Monday morning when I got home through Wednesday afternoon when I went back to work. I do have some WIP stuff to post for next week though. And I will not be working those kind of crazy hours again any time soon. =D So anyways, on to today's planned blog post. It's another film discussion based on what my husband has been watching with our (older) kids. He does have the younger ones sit out when the film is not appropriate for younger viewers. Anyways, no more rambling for me. Here's his post...

Episode 5 – Schindler’s List

This week’s film should probably viewed by everyone at least once. It’s a powerful film and I seriously debated letting my kids watch it. The youngest one wasn’t there so I felt it would be okay. The film I’m talking about here is Schindler’s List. It’s a three and a half hour epic following a group of large ensemble cast of Jews who survive the holocaust through their employment with Oscar Schindler, a war profiteer who kept his Jewish employees safe from the death camps. It’s based on a true story and it’s a hard film to watch.
Directed by Steven Speilberg, this historical drama, is probably one of the most heart-wrenching films I have ever seen on the holocaust. It also doesn’t glorify the Jewish victims but rather shows them at both their best and worst. I had to explain the history to my kids before we watched. Although we have briefly covered recent American history, they have not had a thorough study of WWII. My eldest is just now entering that chapter in history.
The film actually begins when the Polish and German Jews are herded into ghettos where they must live in cramped rooms with one another. It follows them as they are forced out and moved into work camps where living conditions are even worse. Many, except those who find shelter in Schindler’s factory, are then shipped out to the camps. The film ends with the end of the war and the release of the Jews at Schindler’s factory. All along the way we see them stripped of their belongings, their dignity, and eventually their lives.
I have to say the cleansing of the ghetto scene is perhaps one of the most elegant and awful scene in the entire film. We listen to classical music as the Germans move from house to house executing anyone they find. There’s a long shot of the ghetto in which we see lights flashing in the windows across the town and its beautiful and frightening as we think about how each flash is probably the death of someone.
There are a few main characters. You have Schindler played by Liam Neeson who begins as a womanizing profiteer. He’s charming and genteel but he’s also clearly looking to benefit from the war. He gives an offer to several Jewish investors to lend him the money to start a factory and he will pay them in goods bought from the factory profits. When they argue that it isn’t a good deal, which it isn’t, he tells them that they have absolutely no power to get anything better. He’s right and they know it.
The Jews eventually lend Schindler his money. He then builds a factory and mans it using Jewish labor, first from the ghetto and later from the camps, because he doesn’t have to pay them real salaries. Schindler is assisted by a skilled Jewish accountant played by the Ben Kinglsey who helps Schindler turn his factory into a money-making success. Eventually, Schindler becomes sympathetic towards his Jewish employees and the other Jews at the camp. When he discovers they are being shipped out to death camps, he bribes the local officials using all of his ill-gotten gains to keep a little over a thousand Jews as “workers” for his factory. He ends the film penniless but managed to save a large number of Jews.
That’s the main story. The film itself is full of more vignettes than anything else. It has little scenes that give us a picture of everyday life for the Jewish people under the Nazi regime. People use ice cycles on a train in order to have water to drink, they are forced to run naked in the open, hide in outhouses to avoid being shipped away, and so forth. One scene shows a woman telling a story of how a group of women were shaved and put into a shower were they were gassed to death. We later see these same women get shaved and shoved into a shower where they stand terrified until the water comes on. The movie is filled with little scenes and moment that give us a picture of the terror, despair, and dehumanization that occurred during the holocaust.
One of my sons remarked that he felt bad for the people on the screen and how they were being treated. He said it made him want to cry. I told him that was a good thing because it shows that he cares and that he has a good heart. While America has had its fair share of terrible history and how it has treated minority groups, it’s important to remember the bad so that it doesn’t ever happen again.
There’s a lot to talk about with this film. It doesn’t really give us a lot of the historical context so we spent some time talking about the rise of Nazi Germany and the general attitude of the people at the time towards the Jews. I personally feel that this is a sure sign of God’s providence. No other people group has been has hated throughout history as the Jews and yet they are still with us. If God didn’t intervene then they would have been destroyed long ago.

We spent a little bit talking history and religion. We’re supposed to identify with Schindler but it’s a little awkward since he’s kind of a jerk and his scenes are spread thinly throughout the film. As such, the movie makes it hard to really identify with any one character so it is more of a starting off point for discussion about the holocaust in general. Next week, we’ll watch a comedy to balance out the depressing aspect of this film.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Team Sidequest Shenanigans

Team Sidequest is the informal name applied to our gaming group. This group has been in existence since Summer 2000. It started with my husband, his good friend, and myself. When we started, we played 2nd Edition Dungeons and Dragons. My husband ran the games. His friend played a Dragon Knight (original class we designed for the world my husband and I created) named Theorne--this is the same friend who got the awesome Legendary Play Mats I shared the other day. I played a Dwarf Cleric named Grushenka--bonus points if you catch the reference without using Google. =P

At some point we switched to 3rd Edition Dungeons and Dragons. It was a slow transitions. Being the old fogies that we are, we felt that system was very overpowered and ruined the role playing side of it. We played 3rd Edition for many years. We've also played 4th Edition and Pathfinder. We have played Star Wars D20. We are currently playing Pathfinder and Marvel -- the really old version from when I was in high school. We're also threatening to start a MLP campaign.

I've been through lots of characters over the years. I tend to figure out what my character looks like and then build it up from there. If I don't do that, I usually take a vague concept (like one of my archetypes) and then try and find a class that fits. I think, by far, one of my favorite characters to play was Magic, where I played my Magic Girl archetype named. I used the Pathfinder rules for the Magic Girl class published by my husband and another friend of ours. I totally played up the Intelligence score of 7 (out of 18 for those who don't play D&D). This did happen. DM: "You see a dragon." Magic: "I want to make friends with it. I'll bet it's just lonely and misunderstood." FYI, it worked.

My current Pathfinder character is a bit subdued compared to my usual character. She's an Elf Monk who owns only the clothes on back, doesn't bathe, and seeks Nirvana. I'm playing her as an ultra-conservative Buddhist crossed with the Prince of Persia with less sarcasm--gave people a break since my Halfling Druid who I played before Sangye had a mouth that got our party in way more trouble than was probably necessary. (My poor druid died. It was tragic.)

In our Marvel campaign, I'm playing a 3rd generation Greek immigrant living in New York. She lives with her grandmother, but spends most of her time at her guardian's house--her guardian is a Social Services worker (played by my husband) assigned specifically to her case because of the fact that she tends to set fire to thinks when she gets emotional--which is often. She is 17 (super young by my standards), is incredibly impulsive, has fire powers, and has spent most of her life in and out of trouble with law enforcement. She spent a lot of time in centers for juvenile delinquents. This makes her good with misunderstood kids, and she has an interest in child psychology and lots of contacts within NYPD. She's generally better behaved now--she's one of the good guys after all--but she does not think about consequences of her actions before she does them. This means lots of collateral damage. She also tends to destroy her guardian's toasters and has difficulty maintaining a job (since saving the world is more of a side gig).

I'm really big on character creation--looks, personality, back story... all of it. Love it. It's one of my favorite aspects of games--table top and video game (it legitimately took me 2 hours to design my first Guild Wars 2 character). Feel free to comment and tell me about your characters (yes, I opened that can of worms). I like this kind of thing though. Once I get caught up with some of my current art projects (mostly revamping and updating my inventory for any 2018 conventions I might get into, and really just the badges and ties), I plan on opening a special section of commissions just for OCs for games because this is one of my favorite things to draw.

That was rambling... I need to stop writing these things between 3am and 5am after staying up all night. XD

Friday, September 8, 2017

What I'm Playing - Final Fantasy VI

I recently picked up a copy of Final Fantasy VI off of Steam. I have a copy of this game for Play Station and somewhere I have the Super Nintendo version--you know, the one released under the title Final Fantasy III. It felt weird getting another copy of a game I already owned. However, it made some sense because my laptop is way more portable than either the Play Station or Super Nintendo. For example, I spend a little bit of time during quieter times at work at night playing. I can do this because I can bring my laptop to work. Although I would probably get no complaints if I tried to bring a TV and Play Station in, it wouldn't exactly fit in my little cubical work space. So, anyways.

I've been playing Final Fantasy VI. It has always been my favorite Final Fantasy title. A bit of history and yes, this will make me look old; don't judge: My first Final Fantasy was FF IV. I remember renting it as Final Fantasy II for Super Nintendo from the video rental store down the street. I fell in love with that game. After purchasing and beating FF IV, I scoured flea markets for FF I--this was also before Amazon, Ebay, or really any form of internet anything. I was super excited for FF VI (III), and purchased it as soon as it was released. I played through it several times until I went off to college, where my ability to play games like that diminished significantly due to the fact that the Super Nintendo belonged to my brother and I didn't own a TV. Anyways...

As far as Final Fantasy games go, the mechanics are pretty much standard classic jRPG mechanics. Each character has a special ability. Magic revolves around Espers and after a certain point in the game, you can equip Espers on characters. Some people may find this dull, but these are my kinds of game. This is probably why I latched onto Bravely Default and enjoyed it as much as I did. That game was a real throwback to games like Final Fantasy VI. As far as FF VI goes, I loved the story and the characters. It's been a treat to play through it again. I don't get a lot of time for games anymore due to, you know, working full time, being a full time homeschooling mom, and stuff like that. This is part of why having a portable system is good because that gives me more flexibility. So, on quieter evenings, I do get to play at work. I'm moving through the game super slowly. I'm posting periodically during my play on Twitter. Mostly, it's things like "Hey, I'm at this part of the game now." Sometimes I'll post commentary. It's usually only a couple of tweets a night because I am moving at a snail's pace through the game. I'm also sharing FF VI (among other things) related stuff on Tumblr.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

WIP Wednesday - 2017 - Volume 10

It's been moving a bit slower than I'd like--partially because I meant to spend the last couple of nights sketching here at work, but I kind of forgot to restock my drawing folder with paper, so I ran out of paper to draw on... Oops. In theory, I could draw on lined paper, because I still have lots of that, but it messes with my head. I'm not sure why it's such a mental problem for me, especially since I will be scanning all these pages into the computer to do the lines and color digitally. Is there anyone else weird about things like this? One of these days, I'll get over it... Maybe... One of these days, I'll also start doing the sketches on the computer too instead of insisting on pencil and paper.

Anyways, here's a few archetype tag sketches: Survivor, Lolita, and Fortune Teller. Again apologies for the bad pictures. Lighting is not great here at work.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Being Intentional

So I posted a while ago about some of the health problems I've been dealing with, as well as some of the other things that have been going on over the last couple of years. I've been out of the art loop for several years now, and I probably haven't been really 100% on top of things with my art studio since before the crazy moves in 2011 and 2012 before Sophie was born. 2014 was a bad year. 2015 was spent recovering from 2014. 2016 sucked too, and I've been determined to not let 2017 be just recovering from 2016, although that has been a lot of it--more than I'd like.

But it hasn't been all of it. That pleases me. Things are also going to change. In good ways. I've been very focused on intention this year. I want everything I do to have a purpose. For example, consider this blog. I've been doing better about posting here consistently, but it hasn't been perfect. Instead of wasting energy stressing over what I've missed or haven't been able to get done when I wanted, I've moved on. For the blog that's meant, letting the missed post (or two or three posts) go. I'm not going to stress over posting something late. I'm not going to lose sleep over it. I'll just pick up with the next planned post and move on. For other projects, it has meant re-evaluating my goals to keep them reasonable, not stressing when I don't meet deadlines I set for myself. It's also meant putting limits on what I say I can do.

In general though, things are improving. I've been posting here more consistently, and it gets better with each month. I'm getting to where I can work on projects more consistently too. Some weeks are definitely better than others--this is going to be one of those more stressful weeks. I'm writing this at 3 a.m. from work (I work nights as a 9-1-1 call taker). This isn't my normal shift, but I was on-call tonight, and got called in. I work normally this week Monday and Tuesday night, as well as Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights. To offset that, I only work Wednesday and Thursday nights next week, but it does make for a tough week this week, especially since I'm on call again Thursday, and there's at least a 65% chance I will need to come in. So, it's going to be a rough week, mostly for sleep and remembering to do things--like post on this blog--in a timely manner. The hardest part about these crazy weeks is that I lose track of time and what day it is. I like my job though. And, it's a consistent paycheck that is helping to pay off all the medical bills from the last year. Although I'd love it if my art studio could pull off that kind of consistency, it's unrealistic to expect it to take off like that after being on hiatus for several years.

I do have plans to transition this to being my full time job, but it's going to take some time. We've got some great plans for what's going to be happening in the next couple of years. 2017 has been about getting back on my feet and getting things going again--it's been slower than I'd like, and there have been set backs, but I'm pleased to see things (especially good things) happening. I'm looking forward to 2018 being even better. This is intentional. I am doing things to make 2018 better and not just hoping that it will be that way.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Classic Films - Episode 4

Another round of discussion on film. I think my husband has really been enjoying watching these movies with the kids. 

Episode 4 – The Last Starfighter

Another geeky pleasure this week. After Star Wars showed the world that science-fiction films could make money there were a plethora of similar films that hit the market. Some were good (Bladerunner), some were bad (Dune) and some were just plain weird (Ice Pirates and Krull). The film for this week sort of falls in the middle. The Last Starfighter also features video games in a unique way.
Essentially the film is a nerd wish fulfillment story. Beat a video game, save the world, become a hero, and get the girl. It’s all pretty textbook in terms of the story.
It certainly seemed big budget. My kids commented on the special effects which are pretty dated now but still amazingly good for 1984 when the film came out. Our main character is Alex. He lives in a trailer park and is pretty much striving to get into a university and by extension get himself to a better place. He spends a lot of the time helping his mother and the other residents because he’s basically the fix it guy. They need help and they go to him. He spends so much time helping that he doesn’t get to go hang out at the lake with his friends. Otherwise, he plays a lone arcade game called “Starfighter.”
One night Alex beats the game. The same night he gets a rejection letter from the university. I teach at a university now and this rejection notice for a clearly bright kid who has good grades is a little funny now. Most universities are desperate for smart students unless maybe his grades stink or he applied to an ivy league college. It’s not really clear but Alex is devastated and feels that he will waste away in nowhereville.
Robert Preston, an incredible classical actor by the way, shows up as Centauri the maker of the game. His car has had lovely little gull wing doors like a Delorean. Cantauri says he is impressed and wants to give Alex an offer he can’t refuse. Vague promises aside, Centauri takes Alex into space and reveals himself to be an alien version of a car salesman except that Alex is the one for sale and the intergalactic space force are the buyers. Alex is offered the job of Starfighter, an apparently coveted position, which he promptly refuses and demands to go back home.
Alex travels back and learns he has been replaced by an android doppelganger. Admittedly, the doppelganger part was probably the funniest aspect of the whole movie and the best acting Lance Guest makes since he has to play Alex and the socially inept android. Long story short, the other starfighters are killed. Bounty hunters that look like Star Wars background extras show up. Alex is convinced to return and help the interstellar space hero group. Alex gets into a ship, shoots the bad guys, and saves the day. He’s heralded as a hero and goes back to the trailer park to show off his new spaceship and invite his hot girlfriend to come live with him in space.
One of the main villains escapes so it kind of seemed like they were setting things up for sequel. It was never made. Rumor has it that Steven Speilberg and Seth Rogan both tried to get another movie made or at least a remake but apparently the guy who owns the copyright wasn’t interested. Either way, the film probably did sell a good number of the “Starfighter” video games.
My kids found the film mildly entertaining. The youngest liked the star battle. The eldest giggled with embarrassed laughter as the android doppelganger mishandled his date with the love interest. I was more intrigued by the special effects. Apart from some computer graphics that would look like a cheap indie video game today, the film hasn’t aged too badly. Overall, a fun movie but really not one with a deep message.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

WIP Wednesday - 2017 - Volume 9

This week, I'm sharing some of the other projects I'm working on. The stuff I've posted over the last couple of weeks are the main things I've been doing, but there are a few odd prints and projects that I'm working on because I'm not happy unless I have at least 10 different projects in progress at any given time.

One recent project I picked up was repainting our school room. We homeschool, so I have a dedicated space in our house where we keep our school stuff. We decided it needed to be repainted. It was the same yellowy creamy beige that everything in the house was when we moved in. Super neutral and super boring. The school room is in what is supposed to be a "breakfast room" but I don't understand the need for having 2 eating areas in our house. But it works well enough for my purposes. Anyways. The house came with the white molding around the bottom part of the walls in this room, and we decided to leave that. The top part of the room is painted a pale gray, and the bottom part is a pretty shade of green.
 These shelves are mostly for reference books and books not tied to any particular curriculum but might be considered educational. And also our D&D and Pathfinder role playing books. This includes a wide selection of classic literature for my high schoolers, dictionaries, and other fiction books that we deem less than fun (by our kids' standards). We value reading here. =P Anyways, this shelf used to be overflowing, but I purged half the books that had been on it. Most were not thrown away and will be going to a second hand store or used book store. One of my goals this year is to remove things from my home that I don't use and won't use. That makes less to clean up and more time for art! The bottom shelves used to be prettier too, but my 5 year old, Sophie, loves "reading" books and doesn't usually put them back correctly. *sigh* She is also responsible for the paper on the floor--all that came off her desk which you can see in the corner of the picture above. Encouraging her to keep her space semi-clean (I don't expect perfection, but stuff not on the floor would be nice) is a constant battle.

 This is the space dedicated to curriculum stuff. The top shelves have library books and stuff for Sophie's Kindergarten. The next row is for unit study material that we use for our younger kids--right now just Logan (my 10 year old), although we do encourage Sophie to participate where she can.
Below that are spaces for the 3 boys to keep their books: one for Logan and two each for Ty and Luke--my high schoolers. Below that is curriculum not currently in use but that I want available because I tend to use a fairly fluid system for moving through material. The bottom shelf has supplies mostly for science projects. Art supplies have moved to the garage because they were ending up all over the place. The kids can still access them, but it's harder for them to pull everything out, so it doesn't all end up all over the place.

 Our D&D dry erase board and the piano, for when someone feels musically inclined.... And a nice clear picture of the walls. =D

And finally this is their workspace... sort of. It's really just a flat surface that collects crap. =P There is a leaf like the open one above on the other side, and there's felt on the bottom of the table legs so I can move the table easily. I can move the table and open up both sides if I want, or fold both down, or keep one up like it is now. In theory, it's a good idea. In theory...

Anyways, that's a tour of our school space. This is a big part of my life right now, along with art and work and what not, so thought I'd share this for WIP this week. The painting is finished, but maintaining the rest of the room is a constant work in progress as is how we manage our school. I'm always looking for new ways to tweak our system. That makes me sound super organized and together doesn't it? I'm really not. We have no such thing as a routine, and we're definitely one of the more chaotic homeschooling families. Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to have a nice orderly life. ... Sometimes.