Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The Monomyth

I remember when I first read Joseph Campbell. I was taking a class at a community college on the weekend so I could graduate from high school early. That particular class was Ancient Literature and to this day, I look back at that class fondly. The teacher loved his topic and the students -- all from such a wide variety of backgrounds-- wanted to learn. But it was also the first time I was introduced to Joseph Campbell and his theory of the Monomyth. The idea was we're all basically telling the same story over and over again. We just change certain aspects of the formula. You can apply this as far back as Gilgamesh and to as recent as Harry Potter. Our heroes go on a journey and we expect them to meet with trials and nearly die and reconcile with their past before they come out of the whole ordeal a better and/or a different person. It resonates with everyone because, well, we like stories we can relate to. And don't we all go on our own journeys?

Here is a handy picture guide for you

Needless to say, I grew kind of obsessed with comparative mythology for a time. It may be linked to the fact that I just like the origin of things. I want to know where it all began, even if the story is a bit ambiguous. Additionally, I just like comparing things to other things. I like observing the monomyth in stories people may not have thought of. I also like watching/reading things in which I note how characters are very similar to people I know in real life. It may be my own personal quirk or just human nature to categorize and organize things.

Like Final Fantasy X is a great example of the Hero's Journey

The Monomyth is, as one of my friends puts it, something to love and hate. On one hand, if you apply the formula with your own spin on it, you are creating an epic tale. On the other hand, formulas can get tiring after a while and people sometimes become too reliant on it which causes the end result to become kind of stale.

Despite my keen interest in Campbell's ideas, I never wrote a story monomyth style. I took some concepts -- like the trickster for instance. I adore tricksters but that will likely be a different entry for a different time. Conversely, I always try to write original tales when it comes to my writing. I always aim to write something I haven't seen much of before. True, I always get frustrated when I fall into the "The Simpsons Did It" conundrum. But I try to work past that and find a different spin on ideas that had been used before.

This brings me to my nanowrimo story which I just finished last week and won that contest for the first time despite all the times I tried before and just failed. Part of it was due to the fact I really got into my story. As I mentioned in a previous entry, I actually took an idea I came up with as a teenager, dusted it off, changed a few things, packed away the 90's cheese in it, and went nuts. As I wrote it out, I felt this is it. This is my best story. These are my best characters. This is my best writing.

I was worried too, because I didn't want my main character to turn into the typical everyman. But when I came up with the MacGuffin -- his earth mother -- I got thinking on what kind of person would desire such a thing so much he would compromise The Mission to go and meet her. And thus Gabriel was born. He's spacy. Not necessarily stupid, just more that he gets ideas and runs with them without thinking them through -- most of the problems he gets into ties into this character flaw of his. He's well-meaning but incredibly ignorant of everything outside the world he grew up in. And he's a tiny bit lost like anyone is at that age -- and not only is he lost on trying to figure out who he is but also he gets perpetually lost physically as well.

When I started this story, I did intend for it to be a road trip-coming of age story with a looming alien invasion sprinkled in to keep things interesting. And not only did I want it to be about Gabriel growing up but his travel companion, human truck driver Theo, to rediscover herself in the process. I feel I failed Theo a little but I have ways to change that in the rewrite.

I don't know if it was the banter between earthy Theo snarking at spacy Gabriel's ignorance that kept me going. Or that I really wanted Gabriel to realize all what he thought he knew was a lie. Or that I wanted him to get the MacGuffin in the end. The story just flowed. I still need to fix a lot of things. This is mainly because I took some great advice from a friend. "Don't worry about filling every blank yet". And I realized it was me wanting to fill in every little detail, whether it comes up or not was what held me back all these years.

My reaction when he told me about blank spaces

Anyways, as I came upon the climax of the story, I realized something I promptly fell on the floor and rolled around. My story fit the Hero's Journey to a T. The story begins with Gabriel tripping over the threshold of his space pod on earth. He thrusts himself into adventure. In flashbacks, he actually leaps at the call to adventure and tries to finagle his way to be placed on the scouting mission to Earth. The time he spends in the desert after he got caught and escaped from authorities is the belly of the whale. He doesn't have any of his alien goodies to help him on his adventure. Just his telekinesis and telepathy and his wits. He has several encounters along the journey of both the "Men in Suits" and the other hybrids trying to get him to focus on his mission.

Men in Black was Copyrighted

As with the Monomyth, he has a lot of female figures that he must confront. He is tempted by the MacGuffin. That is what propels him forward. He is tempted to carry out the mission even though it may result in deaths. He is also tempted by just giving up on everything too and spends a period of time lost in a cornfield pondering just that. He nearly dies and comes out of it more powerful than before. He confronts the Father -- the Mothership oddly enough -- and brings to his people knowledge of the truth which is the ultimate boon. And the title he takes as the end result is probably the Master of Two Worlds.

Just, I didn't even intend for my story to follow the Hero's Journey Formula, yet I sort of subconsciously did. Is the Hero's Journey THAT pervasive into our collective unconsciousness? Granted, I think I have a few spins on the formula. The Woman as a Temptress is clearly the hybrid named Michael (she's a chick) but she does not offer physical temptation but the temptation of duty to please the aliens.

Another ancient storytelling device I used I realized later was The Allegory of the Cave. Gabriel spends his entire childhood and teen years being told that the humans on Earth are warlike and need to be appropriately guided to peace. It is in their nature and thus in his nature as a hybrid. This is why he could never expect to rise far up the ladder and must be forceably be corrected for bad thoughts. Gabriel found out later that warlike is a simplistic way to describe humans and peace is not what the aliens are going for.

Another picture for your convenience

 The reason why I started this entry because it got me thinking. Does my story work because it really works? Or does it work because it follows the formula? Either way, I am waiting until December to revise and begin the second draft. I want to do it now because I have so much I want to do to fill out the world I built.

 But I believe in this story and I look forward to seeing it through.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Happy Veterans Day

It is 11 November which means it is Veterans Day in the United States. I, myself, am a veteran as it says in my description. I served 4 years active duty with 4 years inactive. I finally got my Honorable Discharge as I am now fully a civilian. Even though in the scheme of things, my military career was a short one, it has become part of how I identify myself and a lot of what I experience does influence of I view media and how I write too.

I will say outright, I am not the biggest fan of war movies. There are very few I enjoy and I am not going to run out and watch a movie that is centered around a soldier at war. It's not that the topic doesn't interest me. I really like watching documentaries about wars and military. My NaNoWriMo novel has shades of a military story (even though it is mostly a coming of age road trip story). I just find that many war stories tend to walk a tried and true line. You have to go through a bucket of crabapples to find good ones. And I really don't understand why people don't try to be daring (I'm not talking about using buckets of violence or anything meaning daring) as war has been a part of the human condition for almost as long as humans have been around. It is also one of the most debated topics in human history. So, I find it frustrating that people fall into formulas. Don't get me wrong, there are some stories that rock the formula. And there is nothing wrong with that.

I just find, at least to me, is that war movies usually fall into two categories: War is Hell and Makes Us All Monsters versus War is Glory/Good Guys Will Win Over Bad Guys. There is no middle ground which is where I tend to stand. I fully acknowledge that nothing really good comes from war. People die and those who don't are left with scars both physical and mental. But I can never fully buy into the pacifist frame of mind. There will be misguided people out there who will want to kill you and your family based on perceived politics or religion or ethnicity/race no matter what diplomatic argument you may present. And when it comes to that, I will fight to protect myself and those I love. And that is war.

I know there are movies/books/media in which it does fall somewhere in the middle but they tend to be pretty rare. I tend to like my war movies to fall in the middle of that. Yes, war makes monsters of us all and is hell. But also, war is sometimes a necessary evil and it forms bonds like no other. I want my war movies to focus on grey morality. Of course, even saying that, there are exceptions.

This Veteran's Day I decided to post my favorite "War Movies" and it will show just how eclectic I can be. I know I am cheating with some of these and stretching the definition but here you go. There will be no Saving Private Ryan (man they played that thing on repeat at MEPS) or Top Gun (man, they played that repeatedly when I was stationed at a Naval Station) but there will be some that are surprising and some that aren't.

1. Full Metal Jacket

Let's get this one out of the way because I am sure some people are rolling their eyes at me, especially at the spiel I just wrote up there. I happen to really enjoy this movie but then, I tend to enjoy Stanley Kubrick. This is the ultimate war movie that pretty much defined war movies for the latter part of the 20th century. Before Full Metal Jacket, many war movies went along the lines of War is Glory as I mentioned above. Full Metal Jacket really is War is Hell.

People who are a fan of this movie always point to the first 20 minutes or so in which the main character goes through basic training, watches as a fellow recruit "Private Pyle" gets bullied by the Drill Instructor, and then Pyle blows the Drill away. People remember this scene because it is so brutal and the Drill's lines are quotable even if vicious. Most people who watch Full Metal Jacket will talk about this part of the movie and if you didn't know any better, you wouldn't know most of the movie takes place in Vietnam.

It's a shame, really, because I really like the climax. Up until that point, the main character and his squad are being gunned down by a lone sniper. They curse about him. They talk about how they will destroy him. When they finally get to the sniper's nest, they realize that he is really a she in a classic Samus is a Girl moment. She was gravely injured and as she writhes in pain on the ground, she begs for them to kill her. These tough talking guys suddenly can't. They've been talking about it and they're upset to lose several of their own. But now they saw the face of the sniper and realize that if she had been in Saigon in a bar, they probably would have hit on her. The whole Vietnam section of the film does a great deal to dehumanize the Vietnamese in the eyes of the main characters. This quiet moment when they face the enemy is that programing reversed. Until the main character pulls the trigger, as if given into his programming finally.

I will never forget watching this movie for the first time and just gasping when the sniper turned around. That look of not messing around, that she is not fighting for some ideology but for her life. It is a shame that all people remember from Full Metal Jacket is Private Pyle and the "sucky sucky five dollah" scene.


Full Metal Jacket is full of war tropes that it both borrows from old movie and also created them but I just feel the movie does them well.  And I don't know why but if someone said, "Hey, Mary, you want to watch Full Metal Jacket?" I will almost always say yes.

2. The Hurt Locker

This time, I sense my military friends rolling their eyes. One of my friends got downright pissed at me for saying I enjoy this film. Yeah, I know it's not really accurate. And Jeremy Renner's SFC James pretty much plays a cowboy soldier who does things that no one in the actual military could get away with. But there was so much about Hurt Locker I liked narrative-wise I can forgive all that.

For one, there is a lot of "senseless" tension in the movie. Many war movies are about traveling through enemy territory or meeting on the battlefield. In the Hurt Locker, the lines of the battlefield are blurry which makes you feel on edge. This is the Iraq War. You don't know if a cellphone is linked to a bomb. You don't know if there is a bomb under that car. It is the psychology of terror. Another aspect that adds to the tension is there are a few scenes that contribute to how futile it really is. SFC James goes out of the way to get retribution for the death of a boy, going through hell and confusing who to trust, only to realize the kid never went missing to begin with. Then there is the scene of the suicide bomber who got cold feet who James tries to save and is unsuccessful. Renner's character seems broken up about it too. The Hurt Locker reminds you that in War you may tell yourself you are going to save the little guy but sometimes you just can't.

The last part of the Hurt Locker I absolute love is when the main character heads back home. He is asked to pick up cereal at the grocery store by his wife. He stands in front of the cereal and looks completely lost. If this had been a question of which wire to cut, he would have no problem but making an innocuous choice with no consequence between Cheerios and Fruit Loops, he just can't do.

It is my cheat day so maybe I can eat Reece's Peanut Butter Puffs

The opening quote in the Hurt Locker notes War is a Drug. And that is what the movie follows along. SFC James can't handle the withdrawal of the adrenaline rush war brings him, even when he can't save the little guy in the end. But he keeps going back. And so does humanity.

3. A Very Long Engagement

This one is kind of cheating as the movie is post World War I but about almost half the movie is war flashbacks so I think it counts. I have only seen this movie once and I do feel I need to revisit it but it left a standing impression on me which is why it occupies a spot on the top five.

This beautiful French Film about a young woman named Mathilde who's fiancee never returns from the trenches during World War I. She proceeds to head off on her own to find out what happened to him only to uncover a conspiracy at the front lines. I can best describe this film as bittersweet. The acting is incredible. The storytelling is just absolutely amazing. I highly recommend this movie if you are in the mood for a foreign film.

There is so much I really like about this movie. For one, the World War I setting is pretty intriguing. It seems like nowadays people just cannot get over World War II. I think maybe part of it has to do with the fact that the U.S. didn't enter WWI until the end but had a much larger part in WWII. WWI was just brutal for France, Belgium and Germany. Trench warfare was no joke. This movie doesn't pull any punches about the trenches either. Those particular scenes were terrifying and the soldiers act terrified. They weren't strong men but a bunch scared shitless boys who had no idea what they were getting into.

Don't worry, it's not so scary, kid! But make sure you have an extra set of underware

But I think one of the main reasons I really like this film is because this movie is about war through the eyes of a woman. Mathilde should have been the good girl who would wait for her fiancee to come home. However, she is proactive and goes to look for him. She's a clever woman who is out to get the information she wants with any means possible. She is not passive at all and is quite engaging. You watch not only to find out what happened to Manech, her fiancee, but just how she will accomplish this task.

The ending will knock you off your feet so I won't give anything else away. 

4. Fullmetal Alchemist

Okay, I'm cheating again because this is not really a war movie. It is a TV/comic series that has a lot of elements from a war movie in it. Fullmetal Alchemist is a manga/anime series that follows the adventures of the Elric Brothers who broke the greatest taboo in their world -- using Alchemy to try and bring back their dead mother. They sacrificed for it -- Ed loses a leg and Al loses his body. Ed sacrifices his arm to bind Al's soul to a suit of armor and together they try to find a way to gain back their bodies and uncover a government conspiracy in the process. That is what the show is about at first glance and the Elric brothers seem to be the sole main characters.

However, this sprawling narrative is actually two stories that intertwine. Yes, you do have the tale of Ed and Al's coming of age redemption story but that is only one part. The other tale follows Colonel Roy Mustang and his Band of Brothers who are in the process of planning to overthrow the country's military junta -- the country of which has shades of both Bismark's and Hitler's Germany and a bit of Japanese Imperialism tossed in for good measure.  There are several episodes that deal with the war that happened proceeding the show's events and in my humble opinion, I find them to be among the best episodes in the series. They do feel like a throwback to military stories of old and I just felt they were well done.

In the show, the country where it takes place is called Amestris which does have a habit of absorbing nearby countries. In particular, there is a part of their country called Ishval. The people there have darker skin, red eyes, and worship a deity called Leto who calls Alchemy evil (as it plays God). There was an uprising after a soldier killed a little boy which turned into an all out war which resulted in the genocide against many innocent people. Mustang and his group are all veterans of this war.

The kid even has a Teddy Bear because they always do

The episodes dealing with war are heavy and do not pull punches. And you see how the war changed those in the Mustang group and how they individually dealt with it in the future. You see why Mustang's closest confidant, LTC Maes Hughes is so obsessed with his wife and daughter (it is what got him through the war, thinking he could see his then girlfriend again). You see why Lt. Riza Hawkeye, Mustang's right-hand woman, the Zoe to Mustang's Mal, is very stoic and cold. She was a sniper during the war. And as she tells Ed, many people in the war could just shoot into the crowd not aiming at anything but as a sniper, she knew who she was killing and she remembered every single one.

Pretty heavy stuff.

That is another part of why Mustang Group's storyline intrigues me so much as a war story. These people who up until that point you grew to like and see them as generally good people only to realize they were on the wrong side of that war. They were the bad guys. And they knew it. This is why they help Mustang with his goal to overthrow the Despot, it is for redemption. Hawkeye also tells Ed that she knows as soon as the revolution happens and Democracy is ushered in, there will be a call to try all those involved in the Ishval War. She will be one of them. And she would happily go on trial and accept whatever sentence is imposed on her. Democracy was worth it to her.

Eh, it is more like a SQUAD as a Team implies two but now I'm being nitpicky

Originally, I considered making this entry entirely about the military aspects of Fullmetal Alchemist. I love it very much so, mostly because it falls in the middle of the spectrum. Roy Mustang's tale has many complicated layers to it and it manages to discuss the tragedies of war but not diss those who serve in the military. In fact it is the bonds formed during war that brings the Mustang group close like a family (a Brotherhood if you will hur hur) and they possess traits common to those of the "honorable soldier" who fights for his men and to protect others. Mustang and his group envision a future in which everyone protects each other.

What I also like about the military culture in Fullmetal Alchemist is how there is a lot that happens at Garrison. It reminds me of my time in the military. There are a few filler episodes of Fullmetal Alchemist that are about the hijinx at HQ that kind of like M.A.S.H. in its hilarity (In fact, I am pretty sure Hawkeye is a purposeful MASH reference). But then there are other quiet moments that kind of remind me of how Frodo and Sam look at each other in Return of the King. The whole, "We've been through some tough shit but I got your back, brother."

I know there is a lot of military anime out there. Attack on Titan has military aspects to it. But why I chose FMA is because the show actively has a discussion of the dual nature of war and military culture that I feel is done extremely well for an anime. Also, I like how the heroes were on the wrong side of the war in question. 

5. Mulan

This one I also expect to get some eye rolls but Mulan is technically a war movie. It has all the staples of war movies albeit watered down and animated. It is also a very black and white good guys (China) against the bad guys (the Huns).  It is still one of my favorite films and it has little to do with the fact of its Asian influence. There are a lot of themes in Mulan that still touch me in many ways which is why I really enjoy it.

For one, unrelated to war, Reflection always gets to me. Throughout my life, I always tried to impress my father and I always felt like I failed for most of my life. So this movie speaks to me on just that issue alone.

Another reason why I like Mulan as a war film is also because -- don't laugh -- I watched this movie the day before I shipped off to Basic Training to get pumped. I'll Make a Man Out of You is the best Training Montage ever -- move over Karate Kid! And actually, it wasn't too far from my Basic Training experience. You suck so bad when you get there and you all hate each other but by the end, you are the ultimate party warrior who can shimmy up poles with two weights on your hands or grab fish from a moving river with all the force of a Great Typhoon.

Also, one of my Drill Sergeants was like Sheng and it wasn't just because he was hot and Asian. He had this no-nonsense way about him. The other DS's were a bit funny. Not DS Sato. He was serious but when he demonstrated stuff, he did it with such cool skill. Also, all the girls crushed on him. No comment from me (I was in a relationship at the time) although he did save my life.

Anyway, even with all this, the scene in Mulan that will make me cry every time is when Mulan comes home to her father and shows him the sword from the Hun guy, the seal of the emperor, and other goodies. Her father tosses it all aside and gives her a hug. It reminds me of when I got out of the military and I was in a hotel room in South Carolina finishing paperwork. I talked to my dad on the phone and read the citation for my Joint Service Achievement Medal. My dad said that I always set out and did what I said I would do, his advice aside. He said he was proud of me without a hint of sarcasm. That was the Holy Grail.


I have a few honorable mentions. The Lord of the Rings Trilogy definitely has a lot of elements of a war story. In fact, Tolkien did borrow from his time in WWI. I absolutely enjoy those films (the books I could never finish). I am also putzing through Tolkien and the Great War which has been interesting

Letters from Iwo Jima was a really good movie. What I think it is so good about it has little to do with the fact I have this picture of the main character Saigo as played by Kazunari Ninomiya on my hard drive:

Happy Veteran's Day People
Just that, like Fullmetal Alchemist, the story follows those on the losing side of the war. No one should ever try to justify the actions of Imperial Japan but it is still a country made of people who were thrust into the war in which some just wanted to stay home and make bread or something (like the main character). Or how about admiring the enemy's culture but still deciding that he would fight for the homeland. Iwo Jima gave a human face to the Japanese Army during WWII but never justified what they did during the war. In WWII films, the Japanese are always depicted as this collective, evil force that works on a hive mind. Nevermind that it is a country of people who like anywhere had their own thoughts and opinions and goals outside destroying America.

The Israeli TV show Hatufim, or Prisoners of War, also deserves a mention. The reason I like it very much ties into why I like A Very Long Engagement -- very interesting female characters who are stuck at home waiting. It is on Hulu. Check it out!

I have not finished Band of Brothers (I keep on walking in mid-way) but what I saw of it, I liked it.

The Australian Film, Tomorrow When the War Began is full of cheese that I absolutely love. That movie follows a group of Australian Teenagers whose town has been taken over by a "Them" (IDK, I think they're supposed to be China?) and they engage in guerilla warfare to try and take their town back. Sure, it is like Red Dawn but they have Australian accents! And lots of Australian scenery porn. That movie is on Amazon Prime. I recommend it for a good romp but don't take it too seriously. Although it would get you thinking about what if your home town was taken over. Could you become an insurgent?

Anyways, Happy Veteran's Day!

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Big Hero 6 and Grief

Today I wanted to write more for my Nanowrimo story and I am pretty far ahead but I still want to keep up the pace. However, I'm a little distracted thinking about a movie I say yesterday namely Big Hero 6.

When I first saw a teaser trailer for this film a little while ago, I already determined I wanted to see it. Cartoons, Superheros, Asian Inspired Setting, Cute robots -- sign me up! Generally, when I decide to see a movie, I will watch little or read little about it until it comes out so I went into the movie generally not sure what to expect outside cartoon, Asian-inspired Setting, and cute robots.

I wouldn't say it is a perfect movie but it is a very good movie and what I really liked about it far outweighed the bad. The colors were so rich, the characters were fun and interesting, the fight scenes were fun, and there were so many heart-warming scenes revolving around Baymax (seriously, Christmas is coming followed by my birthday. I want one. Make it happen, people!). I found myself disappointed when it ended because it ended, even though it ended on a good note in my opinion.


However, there was one aspect of the movie that I really liked and tugged at my heartstrings (I cried twice) and the more I think about it, the more I find Big Hero 6 addressed this issue extremely well for a superhero/family film. And that ties to the issue of grief.

Spoilers for Big Hero 6 below.

In my attempt to block out information about this film before seeing it, I did read somewhere that Hiro's older brother, Tadashi, dies. It did make me pause in my enthusiasm only for a few moments because well, as many of my friends know that in 2013, I lost my older brother suddenly to cancer. It has been such a rough ride recovering from that and while I am a lot better than I used to be, even opening up a lot more about it, it is still something that visits me during unexpected moments.

While Tadashi's death itself did not touch me deeply when it happened because I knew it was (I felt one of the movie's weak spots was the overuse of dramatic irony in the scenes with Tadashi in the beginning), Hiro's reactions to the whole thing, especially at the climax, really got to me. I cried so hard, I had to take my glasses off. It was at the climax did I realize this movie was more than just beating bad guys -- it was about recovering from grief and loss, about how to best remember those who are no longer with us. Yeah, Big Hero 6 follows the Hero's Journey Formula to a T and the movie is about Hiro's coming of age but those were all incidental.

It is Tadashi's death that sets the plot into motion and in someways gets Hiro motivated. I heard some girls talking in the bathroom after the movie about this. One didn't want Tadashi to die. The other said he had to or else the plot wouldn't happen. And she's right. Tadashi is Hiro's Uncle Ben except unlike Peter Parker, it took him a lot longer to figure out the lessons Tadashi was trying to teach Hiro. Uncle Ben wanted Peter to understand great power comes great responsibility. Tadashi wanted Hiro to use his potential for good things. 

But I am going to say something controversial here -- I think Big Hero 6 deals with that better than Spiderman. Peter is sad about Uncle Ben's death and feels guilty for their last conversation but after a few moments he is like, "Yeah. Yeah. With Great Power DOES Come Great Responsibility." With Hiro, it takes the entire movie to get there. It is part of his journey to become a superhero. I think part of it has to do with age. Peter is an older teenager when he gains his abilities. Hiro is 14 when the events begin to happen. But still. Sometimes I feel like superhero stories kind of cheapen deaths of loved ones to get heroes going.

This is another thing that I feel Big Hero 6 does right. Tadashi dies and Hiro doesn't get moving -- at least not at first. He doesn't get moving until he accidentally activates Baymax. And Baymax acts like Hiro's Threshhold Figure in the Hero's Journey, pushing him to the call to adventure. When Hiro realizes his brother probably died because someone set the fire to steal Hiro's prototype, that is when he begins to get angry and works with the kids at the Nerd School to capture Silent Sparrow.

Baymax as a character is also interesting. He is a medical bot that Tadashi created. When Hiro activates him, Baymax reads about grief and everything he does is to make Hiro better. It is like Baymax is a ghost of the deceased trying to comfort those left behind. It is the last bit of Tadashi that exists. Notice that when Hiro is happy, Baymax says, "I am glad the treatment is working!" even when Baymax didn't do something direct -- almost as if the events that transpire were part of his plan all along.

This brings me to the first scene that got me teary-eyed. When Hiro is bent on revenge now that they discovered the true identity of Silent Sparrow, he tries to remove Baymax's program that prevents Baymax from harming others. Baymax will not let him remove it and instead shows pictures of Tadashi working on Baymax who states how much he couldn't wait to show Hiro and how much Baymax would make a difference in the world. Hiro sees this and realizes that removing that part of Baymax, he is dishonoring Tadashi's memory.

Hiro had to be reminded of this. I know that revenge stories are common so this isn't new. Person wants revenge and has to be reminded if this what they really want and all that. But I really liked how this happened and that scene was so touching. As I said, Baymax is almost like Tadashi's ghost. It was as if Tadashi was reminding Hiro to make something of himself like he did at the beginning of the film.

However, the scene that had me crying hard (and to be frank, the entire audience) was when Hiro had to leave Baymax in the portal. Baymax tells Hiro to say the deactivation words. Hiro won't. He begins to cry hard that he wouldn't leave Baymax. At this point, Hiro got a little teary at the show Baymax shows him of Tadashi but he didn't just cry as hard as he is at this moment. Hiro doesn't want to let go of Baymax but he has to. He has to, to live.

I know a lot of people talked about how this scene got them so sad due to the bond Hiro and Baymax develop throughout the movie. Hiro now sees Baymax beyond just a bot he can use. But, I read the scene a little differently -- projecting my own experience no doubt. Hiro didn't want to let go of Baymax because of the bond, sure, but also because that is all he physically had left of his brother. To let go of Baymax was letting go of Tadashi all over again.

The day my brother died, my mother asked me how I felt. I was numb but there was a troubling thought that crossed my mind. I told her that I wouldn't be making any new memories with him. All I had was memories. And what if I forgot them? Then part of him disappears until I have nothing left of him. That thought terrified me, terrified me and made me sad. Watching that scene from Big Hero 6 caused me to recall those feelings.

When the movie ends, Hiro finds the Baymax program Tadashi made so Baymax lived on -- maybe not the one that Tadashi made but Tadashi's inspiration lived on in Hiro. In the end, Hiro learns the lessons Tadashi was trying to teach him at the beginning. He realizes he is not alone and eventually you have to let go.

I just want to say, I really didn't like how they handled Tadashi's death but the recovery from Hiro was just extremely well done. It was by far the narrative's strength.

As I left the movie theater, I got thinking about what my brother would have wanted for me like what Tadashi wanted for Hiro. And all I could think of was my brother thought I was an awesome person. Maybe I should start seeing myself through my brother's eyes.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Episode 6: How Does That Make You Feel?

When we last left our heroes, Ash didn't learn from 1980s PSA films that say you shouldn't get into cars with strange people and got into the car of Dr. Selnik before the rest of the gang could come by and save her.

But before we find out Ash's fate, where was Anna during the events in last episode? Our little power leeching investigator decided to follow her mother into work (her mother cleans houses) to do some snooping. What she ended up uncovering were secret rooms that you needed a code to get into. Anna did not have the code but she did get caught by Dr. Selnik's middle daughter, Tatiana.

After calling her mother, Tatiana asked Anna to stay for dinner and up until then asked Anna to clean her room and do other various chores. She even gave Anna a makeover.

While Tatiana tortured Anna, Male Cheerleader/Doormat/Earth Bender Randy Palmer had picked up Anna's homework for her and prepared to drop it off at the Selniks where Anna said she was. On his way there, as he carried his bass (violin) on his back, he thought he saw Dr. Selnik and Ash in the car drive past him. He waved... but no one saw. When he dropped off the homework, he saw a sleepy Ash being escorted into Dr. Selnik's office.

As he left, he began to walk home to only run into Joss, Iggy, and Mateo who just arrived looking for Ash. Randy explained what he saw and Joss saw the opportunity to make a new minion. The quartet drove to Mateo's house and plotted what to do next. Joss made Randy go back to the Selniks' and describe what he saw. He did so, after doubling back to return an earring to Tatiana that he accidentally had the earth swallow up.

Joss forces Mateo to go and do some spying to figure where Ash and Anna were. He doesn't come back. After waiting a while Joss, Iggy, and Randy low crawl to the Selnik's yard. They hear Mateo crying for help from inside the ground. Before they could investigate further, they hear the sip as if from  a juice box. On the porch watching them is the Selniks' 14 year old son, Cody.

Joss bargains with him to get him to show where Mateo is. A few joints and a couple hundred dollars later, Cody shows them the basement where there is a prototype trap in development. While Cody is showing where Mateo fell, Mr. Selnik comes home and locks all of them, even his own son, in the underground prison "for their own good".

Meanwhile, Dr. Selnik let Ash go and Ash, who still felt foggy about everything that happened goes to Joss's house who is for obvious reasons, is not home. Joss's mother is and she brings Ash inside and feeds her and gives her hot cocoa.

Destroying things and hot cocoa are just a thing with this group

Back at the Selnik's, Anna is forced into Dr. Selnik's office in which everything feels hazy and funny. She comes out of the office with a whole new view on life -- or so Dr. Selnik thinks because she Is So That Good At Her Job. Anna joins Tatiana at dinner as Dr. Selnik and Mr. Selnik talk in hushened whispers in the other room.

Transitional Phrase back into the hole, Joss, Iggy, Randy, Mateo, and now Cody try to figure their way out of the hole. After a bit of team work and collective use of their powers, they manage to escape. This sets off an alarm in the house and the parent Selniks quickly rush to the backyard. The fence around the house began to grow taller to prevent escape. Joss managed to use some quick thinking and stop it from expanding and further. And sprinklers began to spew sleepy gas into the air. Randy managed to use his earth power to cover the sprinklers, some of them at least.

Mr. Selnik went all ninja and took out a net launcher from... somewhere and shot it towards the kids. Randy did a perfect round-off to get out of the way but no one saw because Iggy grabbed the net and sent the electric current back at Mr. Selnik which sent him backwards through the window causing a loud explosion. He was out for the count.

Dr. Selnik was on her cellphone calling someone when Anna touched her causing her to fall to the ground. The one they came to save saved them.

As Ash enjoyed food that was not frozen, she heard the ruckus and heard Joss's mom on the phone. She leaves and heads to Galileo Street.

Just as the gang exits the Selnik residence, a series of unmarked cars began to swarm around. Randy created a hole which allowed them to get away. The cowboy drove up with a van and they all jumped in as they drove into the evening.


This session, I invited a friend of mine to play. He travels a lot for work but I decided to figure a way to work him in. I felt he successfully dived right into our crazy group and blended right in. Randy was a hit with his eager to please ways and Joss easily began to boss him around.

There are parts of this episode that makes me internally cringe. It wasn't a bad roleplaying session but I actually forgot a couple of things I meant to do but it's at a point I can't go back. I also realized a missed opportunity to poke one of the characters further along. I'm slightly angry at myself for that one. I also feel awful that Ash had a very small part in this session (although it is interesting how much she remains the soul of the team even when she has a smaller role). I always want to give each player something to do a session. This is the missed opportunity I am speaking of. I realized afterwards that I could have done a lot more with Ash than I did. So I blame myself for that.

However, I think we're all our worst critic. This session had a lot of laughter and my players had a lot of fun. This episode was a bit off the wall admittedly in someways but the reason why we all laughed was not because we were making in-jokes or peanut gallery comments (although that contributed a bit). We laughed because the situation was hilarious-- a nice break after last week in which the tone was pretty heavy.

This time, it was a comedy of errors. Everyone goes to rescue Ash and Anna. Ash ends up being let go (her brainwashing complete) and spends the rest of the episode drinking hot cocoa with Joss's mom. Anna ends up saving them after many ridiculous screw ups (and horrible rolls on all our parts). In reality, this session played like a game of Fiasco. I very much liked it story-wise, especially when you cut from the intense hole problem with Joss, Iggy, and Randy to Anna being bossed around and berated by Tatiana a la Mean Girls to Ash just being happy little Ash drinking her hot cocoa and swinging her legs.

I think if this session was an actual TV episode, it probably would have been a big hit with the fans because of the multilayers of it.

Although one last criticism of myself -- I need to reread my Watcher Sheet again. I am sure I will eventually get the hang of it. I just keep forgetting things and still use one of my players who is familiar with the system as a crutch.


There is no quotes of the session mostly because I was so busy laughing so hard I didn't take any. And there will be no NPC of the session mainly because I'm trying to push this out and go back to Nanowrimo. Apologies for this entry seeming rushed!