Saturday, April 26, 2014

In Which I Get Really Geeky And Discuss Disney Characters Re-Imagined As Hogwarts Students

There are just so many, many things about which I can't write right now that I have slim pickings for entertaining blog posts.  Thus, when I saw a Buzzfeed article in which an artist who goes by Eira 1893 had re-imagined Disney royals as Hogwarts kids, I thought I'd do some psychoanalysis of their personalities and decide if I agree with which Hogwarts houses into which they were placed.

So, since Merida is my all-time favorite Disney princess, let's start with this drawing which contains her.  It looks like Eira has placed Merida in Griffindor, and I agree.  Merida climbs sheer cliffs by herself and fights off a bear.  Yeah, BRAVE is the word.  Seriously, where else would you put her?  Duh.  (But that's a horrible drawing of her.  Yuck.)
However, the artist has put Aladdin in Griffindor and Jasmine in Slytherin.  Huh?  I'd put him, with his criminal tendencies, into Slytherin, which is where Flynn Rider has been placed, but I'd put her into Hufflepuff, which is where those who are not particularly talented in anything go.  Also, I'd put Rapunzel into Hufflepuff as well.  She's nowhere near smart enough to be a Ravenclaw, which is where Eira has put her (based on the stripes of her socks).

This one is spot-on, though.  The slimy Naveen is Slytherin, and Tiana, who's dumb enough to fall for him and give up all her plans, is Hufflepuff.  Yes, I agree.

Prince Charming as Griffindor?  Really?  He doesn't even do anything in the story except look for the girl.  That's not brave.  I'd put him in Hufflepuff.  But Cinderella faces up to her wretched step-family every day, and then goes to the ball by herself in borrowed clothes, still hoping to avoid recognition by the evil women who demean and abuse her.  SHE should be Griffindor, not him!  Switch these two!

Tarzan, Mr. Buff Dude, as Griffindor.  Well, OK.  I'd think maybe more of Hufflepuff.  Jane as Ravenclaw?  Yeah, she is pretty bookish.  Now, Milo -- ah!  Steampunk Disney before it was even cool! -- Milo is definitely Ravenclaw, but I guess Kida could be Ravenclaw or the Griffindor shown.

Now, I can handle Philip as Griffindor; he does have to hack through all those vines and fight off Malificent, after all.  But Aurora as Ravenclaw?  If she's so smart, how come she pricked her finger on the spindle in the first place?  She doesn't even do anything in the show; she's only a prize to be won.  Nyah, this chick is Hufflepuff.

Eric as a Griffindor I can see, but Ariel's mostly just stupid.  I'd say Hufflepuff.  As for Snow White -- THAT'S Snow White??  Seriously?  That does not even resemble the Disney girl!  But yeah, I'd say stick her and her boring prince (He has a name? Florian?  Really?) in Hufflepuff.

Belle in Ravenclaw and Beast in Slytherin.  Perfect!!  (Now, kick him in the groin, girl, and avoid that whole Stockholm Syndrome thing before it's too late!  Hogwarts has a better library anyway!)

And now, our Frozen friends....  Hans as Slytherin -- definitely.  Anna as Hufflepuff, yup.  But Elsa should be there, too.  She's no Ravenclaw, by any means; she's not that smart.  Kristoff is a bit doofy, yes, but he's very brave.  I'd say he goes in Griffindor!

Thank you.  I shall now replace the Sorting Hat on the shelf in Professor Dumbledore's office and leave you to your regularly scheduled Saturday evening activities.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

How To Sleep In On A Sunday Morning

I was up late last night, working out a new plot outline for The Chocolate Smuggler's Notebook, but I figured I could sleep in this morning, as I had no real reason to be up before 9:00.  Thus, I went to bed after 1:00 AM.
Sometime before 7:00 AM, I was dragged mercilessly from the depths of slumber by what sounded like a troupe of Appalachian cloggers accompanied by a greased pig in terror of being caught.  Now, as I know that one set of neighbors has a wooden deck, it took only a few seconds before I understood the source of the noise, but I vaguely thought that it was a bit early for them to have a patio breakfast.  The tromping and screaming continued until I was more coherent, and my brain recalled that today was indeed Easter, and I was hearing the sounds of young children on the hunt for colored eggs.
TROMP TROMP TROMP.  Squeal!!!   TROMP TROMP TROMP.  Squeal!  It went on for 40 minutes, during which time I tried in vain to block out the sound and drift off again.
This, however, proved ineffective, as another neighbor let out his dogs to bark.  Normally, the dogs just  sit and bark to get back into the house, but this morning they could hear squealing, tromping children, and they got worked up into a rare frenzy over not being able to join in all the excitement.
Just when all this was beginning to die down and I was starting to doze off again, the phone rang once.  I grabbed it, but it was a wrong number.
Plopping my head down onto the pillow, still in a tired stupor, I did actually lose consciousness again for about 5 minutes.
Then there was a harsh, abrupt voice, which barked a command.  It sounded like it was right outside my window.
I vaguely approached consciousness.
The command again!  With an abrupt cut-off and a sound like static!
My sleep-fuzzed brain connected the sound to that of a walkie-talkie.  Police?!!  Were they in the yard?!  What on earth had happened?!
I half-rolled out of bed, grabbed my glasses, and stumbled into the next room where the window would give a better view.
Again the command!  I jumped.  It was so loud!  And it had the same cadence as before.
I froze, mid-stride, half-way to the window.  Was this a recording?  Had some kid planted a recording to startle me?
My almost-unfogged brain came to the conclusion that I should try to understand what the possible recording was saying, so I stayed put and focused as well as I could in my semi-confused state.
"Dumbledore will see you now.  Sherbet Lemon!"  Whoosh!
Minerva McGonagal was shouting at me.
By now I was fully awake.  And laughing.
On the shelf was a small toy I'd received as a gift not long after the first Harry Potter movie was released.  The toy has the Hogwarts tower leading to Dumbledore's office, and when you push the lever, the stairs roll into place, and McGonagal says her line, her voice recorded from the movie.
Only, this morning, the batteries were on their last dregs of energy, and the recording got stuck, playing over and over, even though no one was triggering the lever.
There was no going back to bed at this point.  My rude awakening was thorough.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Feeling Crafty: Updating Antique Pictures

When I was a child, a few times every summer, we used to visit the house where my mother had grown up, which stood vacant for all the years of my childhood, as Grandma, by then, had a house in Salt Lake as well.  Thus, my memories of the house are all dark: dark rooms with curtains drawn and no electricity, sheet-covered furniture, cool and musty air kept in by the thick walls.
The things I recall best from the house were the things that were not covered with sheets, such as the set of framed prints and a little shelf that hung on the wall of the living room.  Thus, years after Grandma passed away, when we finally got everything from the old house out of storage and divided it up, I asked for the prints.
However, once I got them, I was disappointed to notice that their frames were a horrible color (which my father recently referred to as "chicken poop tan"), done in a lousy paint job.  My mother explained that her older sister had "updated" the darker brown frames and shelf -- but this had been done in the 1950s, when "blonde" furniture was just coming "in."  And these didn't quite make "blonde."
Thus, the prints and the cute little shelf sat in my basement storage room for years -- until a couple of weeks ago, when I finally realized that 1) the paint was not sacred just because it was antique and 2) if repainted, the whole set would really brighten up the laundry room wall, which is one of the very few walls in the house not decorated with my father's paintings (and these little prints would never mix with his gorgeous work).
I therefore made my trip to the craft store and bravely bought the spray paint.  I spent a couple of days painting and drying the items.  I then hung the paintings, but I had to get Dad to restring the little shelf with painter's wire so I could hang it.  And just tonight, I hung the shelf.
Here, then, is the series of pics (strung together with a meme-maker, of all things) to show the progress. (Remember to click on the photo to enlarge it.) 
In the top photo, the ugly frames are visible, and the glass over the prints is covered with plastic and masking tape.  In the middle photo, the paint job is mostly dry on the second day, and I'm touching up the missed spots on the edges.  The third photo shows the prints and the little shelf (with a drawer in it) hanging in my basement laundry room (you may notice cinderblock along the right-hand wall).  You can see in the final pic that I chose a blue paint for the frames to match the blue in the old prints.
I am very pleased with the cheerful result -- and with the absence of the "chicken poop tan" color of yore.  :)

Here's a larger version of that last photo.  It's not well-lit because this is, after all, the basement laundry room, and you can clearly see my shadow on the wall.  But it gives you the idea of how everything turned out.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Full Steam Ahead!

My 7th grade gifted and talented class is doing a bit with steampunk literature right now, and today I wanted to let them hear a little steampunk music during their break time.  (We have 80-minute classes, which is a LOT when you're 12 years old, so I give a five-minute break for them to talk about half-way through class.)
My favorite steampunk band is The Cog Is Dead, and when I went to pull up a video or two of theirs on youtube, I discovered that they'd released a new album!  I have no clue how I missed the release news, especially since I follow them on twitter.  Nevertheless, let me share with you one of the most fun numbers from their new album, Full Steam Ahead:

Oh, swear! *&&^%
Once again, blogger won't upload something from a URL.
Fine.  Be that way.
*sulks in front of monitor*
Here's a link, then.  I hope that works, at least.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

A Bit Dull In The Blogging World Right Now

Yeah, I know; I haven't posted much lately.
Let's see if I can explain why.
We're up to our neck in SAGE testing at school.  For those of you who haven't heard, there's a good deal of controversy over the test and the Common Core all over the nation, and, well, Utah's gone berserk over it.  Plus, I teach in a school district that requires more a LOT more standardized testing than any other in the state.  Bleah.
So, my life has been all about testing this week.  And I pretty much can't talk about it, as the state school board has sent out two threatening e-mails about how teachers will lose their jobs and license if they spread the word about what's on those tests.  So, I can't really blog about SAGE -- except maybe to tell you that the highlight of the week was when one kid got a bloody nose in the middle of testing.  Yeah, that was about the BEST thing that happened.  The rest was worse.
Then, it's spring.  So all the dogs are out.  Noise.  Lots of noise.
But I can't really blog about that, as I've been told not to.
Then, there's a good deal of political stuff going on in Utah.  There's the whole gay marriage bit.  And the Ordain Women movement.
I'd LIKE to blog about those, but I've been warned against doing so.
Oh, and there's been some political stuff going on in our own school and the high school.  There's a lot of good gossip there, but, again, I can't blog about it.
OK, well BOOKS!!  Yes, I can blog about books!
But I've been going through book drought.  I've had a hard time finding decent books to read lately.  I've been re-reading some of my favorites, but reviews of older books do not make for good blog fodder.
This is why I could be up for the Boring Blog Award lately.
However, my Pinterest boards are buzzing right along, and I pick up sometimes a dozen new followers daily.  Take a gander, if you like.  You can find me here.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Frozen vs. Brave: What Are Disney's Messages Now?

In years past, Disney's messages have pretty much been things like "girls get married and boys have adventures."  Take Snow White, for example.  The princess is young (did you know she's only 14?), pretty, and inexplicably good at housekeeping -- for a princess.  Basically, she has to be passive and sweet, cleaning and hanging out with animals, while under the protection of non-sexual men (the dwarves are short and goofy, so this -- naturally -- makes them non-sexual beings *eye roll*) and wait while the prince fights off her evil step-mother and then claims her as a prize for his efforts.  Fast-forward five decades to The Little Mermaid.  Ariel is less passive, and Prince Eric is more so, but the whole point of the movie is that the girl changes her life, her body, her home, and her whole lifestyle in order to be accepted by the guy.  He merely has to accept her and change nothing about himself.  Then, in Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin, we do get a bookish princess and -- oh my gosh!  -- a brown princess, but the whole message here is "Girls, if you're good and sweet enough, you can change an abusive man or a worthless one into the right kind of husband."  Groan.  Then people praised The Frog Princess and Tangled for being so "modern."  But the whole point is still the same as in Beast and Aladdin, although we do get a Black princess for a change.
Then Brave happened.  And the Wonderful World of Disney finally changed.
Frozen is also keeping right on track, and some folks say it's even better.
Let us compare.
Both movies actually have women dealing with problems that are not about men.  In Brave, it's the mother-daughter relationship that drives the central conflict, and in Frozen, it's Elsa's problems with herself and with her sister.  Score: one point for each movie.
Princess Merida in Brave is (in the movie, anyway) more ordinary in looks and actions.  She is cute but not beautiful.  She tromps rather than gliding.  She is strong, likes archery, mountain climbing, and her horse.  She is not at all passive.  She also prefers practical clothing and natural hair.  She is a princess who appeals to little boys as much as to little girls.  In contrast, Elsa in Frozen is at first reserved and beautiful and then sexy and beautiful.  True, she gets to do spiffy stuff with ice, but she's struggling with internal conflicts and doesn't do anything to appeal to adventuresome boys and girls.  Anna is funny and more adventuresome, but she's still way too perfectly pretty.  Only once in the whole movie does she look anything other than lovely and graceful (the bed-head scene).  Score: Brave 2, Frozen 1.
Neither movie has very many women in it.  Brave has only 4 important women, and in Frozen, there are the two sisters, with briefly their mother and a couple of female trolls.  Both movies are about a few women dealing with a men's world.  Hmm...  However, Brave at least shows the three traditional aspects of women: maiden, mother, wise woman (OK, so she's a goofy wise woman), all of whom work together to solve the problem of family love and respect.  Frozen doesn't really have any generational stuff going on.  Score: Brave still 2, Frozen loses a point to be 0.
Now let's consider what each movie teaches about love.
In Brave, Merida's insists that 16 is too young for marriage.  (Hooray!  It's about time, Disney!)  She also declares -- and her mother finally agrees -- that young people should choose for themselves, in their own time.  In the end, Merida is seen at least accepting a kiss on the hand from the most promising of the young suitors (the one who speaks the Doric, and who is pretty dang hard to understand), showing that she'll be willing to think about acceptable guys when she's ready.  (Then she rides off to have adventures with her mom -- because the time for romance is NOT 16.)  In Frozen, we have that wonderful moment when Elsa tells us all that you can't marry a man you just met.  (Hooray for Disney!)  Unfortunately, this wisdom is completely undermined when romantic love and the fake-marriage of Anna to Kristof occurs within just a few more days.  So, Disney's telling us.... uh... you can't marry the wrong guy if you just met him, but you can marry the right guy.  What the crap?!  Oh, sure, Anna doesn't actually marry him by the end of the movie, but it's clear they're completely paired off.  Score: Brave +1 for a total of 3, Frozen + 1 then - 1 for 0.
So what do the movies have to tell us about men?  Let's look at that.
Brave: Dad and Mom are totally in love with each other and love their kids very much.  Awwww.  Cute.  However, over and over again, we are shown that men are warlike and can't control themselves without a woman there to calm them down.  Boo.  Hiss.  That's no message to give either girls or boys! Making women responsible for men's actions is totally not cool.  In Frozen we have Dad and Mom who are pretty concerned for their children's welfare, but they're more obsessed with public image than anything else.  Not great.  We also learn that you really don't know whether to trust men or not.  It's obvious we shouldn't trust the merchant of Weaseltown, but Prince Hans is just as charming and sweet as can be -- until we learn his true motives.  Oaken is also totally sweet until his temper flares up.  So, how can we possibly trust Kristof?  How do we know, without giving him some time to show his true colors, whether or not he's the good guy?  Uh, well, we know because Disney says so.  OK, right.  Whatever.  So, don't trust men.  Unless... unless something.  What?  This makes no sense.  Score: Brave -1 for a score of 2 and Frozen -1 for a score of -1.
Brave teaches us that parents can love each other romantically and in a friendly way.  It also shows the huge importance of parents and all children (Merida and her little brothers love each other) working together to keep the family going.  Yes!  There's also no sense of Merida's having to give up her family or change herself just to get a man, like Ariel does in Mermaid.  In fact, it's pretty clear that Merida's not going to change herself for any man.  Well played, Disney.
In Frozen, however, we have a broken family trying to mend itself.  The parents have stifled love and joy in the family until Anna, as Hans truly tells us, is so desperate for love she'll take the first person who pays attention to her -- and apparently also the second, as she takes to Kristof mighty fast as well.  Poor Elsa is completely damaged, but love is the answer!  Yes, as soon as she realizes love can thaw things, she does.  Even though this makes no sense.  How did she learn to love?  Yes, she loves her sister, but Elsa's barely beginning to accept herself.  How can she suddenly and completely reverse all the damage done to her and her country just by saying that love is the answer?  Merida takes a whole freakin' movie to understand that she loves her mother and needs to work things out with her.  How can Elsa heal years of abuse (which Merida did not have) in a few seconds?  Love, in Frozen, is presented as some kind of magic spell, rather than as something people have to work on and work out.
Score:  Brave +1, for a total of 3, and Frozen + 0, for a total of -1.
There you have it, folks.  Disney has come a long way from the pathetically passive princesses of the past (here, have some alliteration, OK?), but Brave is still better than Frozen at teaching life lessons to kids.
(Plus, dude, it's set in SCOTLAND, for crying out loud.  Norway's cool and all, but you just can't top Scotland. :D)

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Controlled Substances

Yesterday I was in a Michael's Craft Store, and I wanted to buy a can of spray paint to update some antique paintings by covering the really ugly paint on the frames.
The rack of spray paint was locked up in a cage.  I had to push a button and wait until a clerk could arrive.  While I was waiting, a lady with a girl of about 8  arrived, and the girl was disappointed that I had already pushed the button.  I told her she could push it again if she wanted to.  But just then, the clerk arrived and nearly shouted, "No, don't push it again!"
I mouthed "sorry" at the little girl, but I could see she felt shamed.
The clerk opened the cage with her key and stood in front of the rack of paints.  I told the little girl she could go first -- and she cheered right up, carefully pronouncing the name of the color her mom (presumably her mom) wanted.
The clerk then looked at me, and I asked if I could please take a look at the can.  She had to hold it for me; I couldn't hold it myself.
The other lady with the girl had to wait while this happened.
I finally chose two colors quickly, as I could not study the cans to determine how much I needed, drying time, color mixing, etc.
The clerk slammed the three cans of paint (my 2 + the 1 for the lady and little girl) under one arm, wrestled the cage closed, and locked it -- all while body-blocking the rack, as if the three of us customers might at any moment throw her to the ground to get at the paint.  She then announced that she had to take the paint to the cashier herself, that we would not be allowed to touch it or keep it in our shopping carts.
I was thoroughly surprised that the cashier didn't card me when I later went to pay for the stuff.

Geez, I know graffiti is a big problem, but I had no idea it was this hard to buy spray paint.  Seriously.
In Utah, I think it's probably easier to buy a gun.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Vanity Plate

Running errands for my parents today, I noticed a parked car (in a reasonably well-to-do area) with a vanity license plate that read simply, "STORK."
Let's vote.
Is the owner a) an ornithologist?  or b) a gynecologist?