Saturday, October 24, 2015

Mary's Special Fin -- Why Representation is Important

A friend of mine and I once ranked our favorite Pixar films. I put Finding Nemo in the top five. While I really love the dialogue and the characters and the overall story, the cherry on top of why I like this Pixar film lies in something kind of silly.

Nemo and I have something in common. We both have a special fin.


When I popped out of my momma, I was on the small side but I also had a left hand that hadn't developed all the way. It's been with me my entire life and is just part of who I am. I do some things differently because of it -- particularly typing, playing piano, and getting stuck with the trumpet. I also really suck at jungle gyms. One of my earliest memories was falling off one -- because my hand wouldn't go all the way around-- and getting the wind knocked out of me. Luckily, it is something small enough that it takes observant person to notice it without me pointing it out. Kids could be mean about it (although kids zeroed in on my weight more) and as an adult, I even had someone I served in the army with said sincerely that my hand "creeped him out". Gee thanks.


I would have to learn how to do some things differently. Like my brother taught me how to guitar but said I would just have to play it backwards like Hendrix. I play Guitar Hero backwards too.

And then there was swimming -- yeah, it is not just the special fin that makes me feel a kinship to a fictional clown fish. I always liked the water and since I grew up on the ocean, I can't remember when I learned how to swim. Of course, mostly in the beginning I was the champion dog-paddler. One summer, I went to a day camp and took swim lessons where I learned actual strokes. My hand caused me to be weaker on one side, so I kept on swimming the crawl in circles or some other form of not straight. The swim teacher told me I probably won't be able to swim properly because of it. My hand was like a broken rudder.

I told my dad about that and he said, in the most incredulous way possible, "Why don't you just push harder with the left hand?!" And I did. Fast forward a couple of years and I gained my lifeguard license. I never used it but I defied what that swim instructor had told me. Now, I freestyle on the level of Haruka Nanase.

Yep. I'm so good, I freestyle in the shower

When I watched Finding Nemo for the first time, I literally screamed. Special fin! Special hand! And Nemo wanted to prove all of them wrong. I mentioned how I got the wind knocked out of me from falling from the jungle gym. What I didn't mention was after, I tried again and cut open my lip when I fell again. That time I stopped. I would dangle and that would be it. But the swimming. Both Nemo and I kicked ass at that.

 The thing is, I sometimes wonder what would have happened if I had Finding Nemo as a kid. I never was super ashamed of my hand. I used to brag that telling right from left was super easy for me. I tell Toph-style jokes making fun of it. And the only thing that bothers me is I can't make a heart with my hands.


But there would be days in which my classmates would do something like hand me four pinecones saying they "found my fingers" and other such things that would ruin my day. Or people who meant well but would ask when I showed up to Softball try-outs if I could even catch the ball. Trust me, if I didn't think I could do it or find a way to do it, I wouldn't have shown up.

I know my special hand is not a major set-back. Outside micro-aggressions and impatient teachers, I am not discriminated against. But it is still my special story. It was still a source of frustration to understand how I could never do complex chords for the piano or when I learned how to play the recorder or the Irish whistle, I would hurt my fingers to make sure they'd cover the holes. It was nice to see Nemo suffer from a similar aliment to me and see his all too familiar frustration that more people don't take him seriously, to not see him as weak, or how he could be independent. And most of all, to overcome the self-doubt. I can freestyle. I can serve in the Army. I can get a sharpshooter badge! I found different ways to do all these things. But I had to believe I could do them.

I know a lot of people argue about how this push for diversity is enforcing this "check-list" mentality. I can see where it is coming from. However, as children, one of the ways we learn how to empathize is through the media we consume. And a way we learn to discover/like ourselves is by relating to storylines in the media we consume. But here's the thing. Representation is not just for those who fit into those minorities. It is for the majority -- to be reminded that these people exist. And these people have stories.

Maybe, if Finding Nemo came out during my childhood, my classmates would have said what my roommate in Basic Training said, "Your hand is small! Like Nemo!"And maybe my classmates, just like my roommate, would become my friends. 

Or they could remain psychopaths. Seriously? Pine cones? Go to hell.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

When Antagonists Have a Point

"Examine what is said not he who says it" - Arab Proverb

I've recently got my friends into watching Avatar: The Last Airbender and Legend of Korra and I've been enjoying listening to their point of view of two of my most favorite shows. One of my friends while talking about Legend of Korra said he didn't think Amon was necessarily a bad guy. Clearly Republic City had no problems discriminating against non-benders. They are underrepresented in the council and the police force. And he saw what Amon was doing wasn't necessarily bad. It wasn't like he was killing people. One of my other friends responded with while all that is true, taking away someone's bending is like someone taking away her artistic ability. 

Equality for All!!
 By the end of the discussion, we could all agree that Republic City and in general the Avatar universe at large does have a non-bender bias. But this is why Korra enforced non-benders into the counsel after the events of the first season and why the police force became more mixed. In a sense, Korra realized that Amon did have a point. Not about taking away someone's bending but that non-benders aren't treated that well.

In my Dungeons and Dragons Episodes post, I talked about why I liked the ending of Advanced Dungeons and Dragons episode in Community. After Pierce spends he entire episode being a complete asshole because he wasn't invited to the game, Neil invites him to the next game. Pierce was mean and a lot of what he said is unforgivable but Neil acknowledges how Pierce was right to feel left out. His methods may have been horrible but it was unfair he was excluded. 

The first Percy Jackson series very much envelopes this idea. Spoilers for the first Percy Jackson series below. 

Ugh! I wanted the movies to be good. I wanted so bad!

Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson series is about the idea that the Greek Gods are still around but have disguised themselves with the times and hide behind other ideas. They, true to themselves, still make nookie with mortals and beget demi-god children who they continue to use as pawns in their various agendas. These demi-gods go to camp on Long Island where they stay in cabins with their brothers and sisters or in the case in which their godly parent doesn't claim them -- the Hermes Cabin. Then, they train so they can protect themselves from monsters because the world is dangerous for demi-gods. 

I mean, they got a really good Luke

The main plot of the series has many different layers. The first layer antagonist is a demi-god of Hermes named Luke Castellan. He has a huge chip on his shoulder that can be tied back to issues with both his parents but in general, he's very out-going and kind of a joker like most Hermes kids are. Percy even regards him as an older brother type in the first book. But Luke is tired of being a pawn of the gods and wants to overthrow them so humans aren't privy to their whims any longer.

Luke forms a coalition with children of minor gods who weren't awarded their own cabin at Camp Halfblood and weren't given any respect and also a large group of demi-gods whose godly parent never claimed them. Together, Luke's army do questionable things and hurt many people.

To be fair, why Luke thought it was a good idea to trust someone who ate his children as opposed to having a dad who is just Nathan Fillion, I'll never know

Ironically, it turns out Luke, who was tired of being the gods' pawn, becomes the literal puppet of a titan -- specifically Kronos. It's kind of heart-breaking when he realizes this and there is no going back. Luke is not a bad person, not really. Yeah, he does questionable things and his methods aren't all that thought out but as they say, the path to hell is paved with good intentions. Luke was the Cabin Leader of the Hermes Cabin and had to see all these demi-gods get shafted by their godly parents or the minor god demi-gods get shafted by demi-gods of "higher parentage". Then there is someone like Ethan Nakamura whose mother, Nemesis took his EYE to give him power. Luke, who is a big brother type, must have really wanted to help these people.

Seriously, Luke's dad is Nathan Fillion and he trusts a guy who ate his kids over Mal from Firefly

After Percy hears about Luke's incredibly sad backstory-- I legit cried during it -- and saw Luke's big brother act was sincere, after Luke's death Percy makes the gods swear on the River Styx to claim their spawn on their arrival to Camp Halfblood. Also, minor god children were given their own cabins and recognized as equals among the other children of the big 12. 

In the end, Percy and his friends not only defeat the villain but also recognize that one of the antagonists had a point. Maybe his methods through the first three books were definitely villainy but Luke's grievances were STILL valid. And that is one of the strengths of the Percy Jackson books. Percy didn't defeat the bad guy and move on. No, he saw that hey maybe the antagonists had a point. The gods are haughty and don't own up to the responsibility of being parents. Every child deserves to be loved. 

I think the lesson of season 1 of Korra, Percy Jackson, and that one episode of community is often one that is overlooked. People too often focus on methods of their enemy without considering what is motivating them. Sure, some villains and antagonists' motivations are purely selfish. They want more land or more gold or more power etc. However, it takes a different kind of hero to look at the antagonists who don't and address those grievances -- not without consequence to the antagonists' choices of course. 

This is a lesson that I feel needs to be employed more often, especially in today's world. When, for instance, we see so many teenagers decide they want to live under the harsh regime of ISIS-- maybe start looking at the grievances they have that caused them to make those choices. Many are probably Luke Castellans -- angry at society and manipulated by a force with different plans. 
Now, to go back to reading Magnus Chase. Holy crap, it's so good.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Mary is Like an Onion -- Why do I like the hot-tempered "angsty" type

Someone asks me, who's your favorite Avatar: The Last Airbender character? I will say Zuko. In fact, my cat's nickname is Zoozoo for that reason. Someone asks me who is my favorite character from the Percy Jackson books. I'll say unblinkingly, Nico di Angelo. Or hey, Mary I just saw on your Goodreads you caught-up with the Raven Cycle, who do you like the most there? Ronan Lynch. No, just kidding, it's Adam. Although, Ronan is just a close second. Just like Frank Zheng is a close second in Percy Jackson universe. And Iroh in Avatar (or Varrick if you include Legend of Korra).

Zuko, Nico, and Adam have a lot in common as characters. People would be quick to label them angsty teenagers and dismiss them unfairly as simply that. Sure, angst is a popular thing to write in books aimed at young adults and often it can be written badly. I find with Zuko, Nico, and Adam, though, that is well-written, thoughtful, and relateable which is why I latch onto them so much. And I want to hug them even when they're being jerks.

There is just something that pulls me in about their stories. All three have complicated histories with their families. Zuko's father is an imperialistic Fire Lord Ozai who scarred and banished him and he has a sociopathic sister, Azula. Adam's father is manipulative and physically abusive. Nico's father is Hades and while he can summon famous ghosts at a whim, he cannot see the ghosts of two people he wants to see the most -- his mother and sister.

But another aspect is all three of them feel like "others". Zuko is a traitor and has to work hard to get the Gaang to trust him. Nico is a demigod of death and the other demigods sense that off him and distance themselves from him. Adam is often pointed out as seeming otherworldly since the events in Book 2 and he is also the poor scholarship kid at a prestigious school where children of senators go. True, all teenagers feel like outsiders so it is usually good to have one character who fits into that.

I think the reason why I like them the most is because of their journey. All three undertake a journey on a path filled with brambles and raised roots. They have to crawl out of ditches, take a tumble down steep hillsides, get scratched by branches. And mostly, they have to do it alone as they learn the lessons they are to learn.

Simba had to go through a literal bramble bush

Zuko is literally scarred by his dad and sent on a quest that Ozai probably said in jest just to get his loser son out of his sight. He has Iroh with him for part of it, but Zuko takes his kind uncle's presence for granted. He is humbled and becomes a better person for it.

After Percy accidentally is responsible for Nico's sister's death, Nico goes on a journey we never see into the underworld. When he comes back, he's a different person. Before, he was an eager, hyper little geek. Now, he's the Ghost King -- kind of dark, a little hot-tempered, awkward, and a little harsh. He feels like an outsider and understands all too well people don't want to be surrounded by a reminder of death that he is. Additionally, as he told Percy in the books, he went through the underworld all by himself with help from no one. But when it comes down to it, once Nico puts his grudges aside, he is a very useful ally and there is part of him that is still gentle and sweet like he was when are first introduced to him.

Lastly, we have Adam Parrish who has an epic argument with Gansey, the King of our Team about privilege. Gansey is the son of a senator while Adam grew up poor and worked his ass off to get out of his home situation, get and keep a scholarship to a prestigious academy, and to support himself. Adam is proud. He doesn't want Gansey's charity (Adam only accepted a gift of a new tie from Gansey because Adam already had a tie so it wasn't charity). Adam feels alone and feels different but he is learning that he's not either of those things.

I think why their journeys speak so much to me is because growing up, I always felt I did things on my own. I always felt like I was alone and never got any help along the way. Some people in my life have observed that I'm successful, which I am modest about. I don't feel successful. Maybe it is because, like Zuko, I am always rushing and think I haven't reached that notch in my own personal timetable (then get frustrated and everything blows up in my face) and I'm behind.

But okay, maybe I have accomplished a lot as I look back on my 33 years of existence but it wasn't easy. It involved a lot of low crawling (sometimes literally!) in the mud, lots of falling down and getting back up, and yes, I did most of it on my own.

As you wish, life, as you wish

 I wanted help sometimes, but I also didn't want to burden my loved ones too. And also, like Adam, sometimes, I just was too proud. And like Zuko, I know had a couple Uncle Irohs floating around as teachers and family members that I didn't come to appreciate until later.

A friend of mine said recently that I was always a person who just made it work. Sure, on the outside, I'm a funny joker type. But on the inside, there are parts of me who is Zuko yelling how everything blows up in my face. There is part of me that is Nico sitting in the crow's nest of the Argo to not bother everyone else with my ewie gooey death aura. And there is part of me like Adam that is just too proud to ask for help. However, like them, I make it work. I find a way to keep myself afloat because I have to.

Thanks, life.

I think that is why I think it is unfair to write off these characters as just Angsty teenagers and also why I like them so much. They are manifestations of ourselves at our worst. And when they emerge from the storm different and better people, it is victory for our own inner selves as we too try to navigate the tricky parts of life.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Mary Gets Political -- Geeky Style


I'm fatigued. I saw there was yet another school shooting in the country I call my home. I try to keep up with the going ons in the world and I care deeply when I see people being exploited or hurt or killed. But when I heard the news of what happened in Oregon yesterday, I just felt tired. And that alarmed me. I mean, I've been unemployed for the last month and a half. I have no reason to be tired. But I just wanted to see it stop happening. And to my surprise, President Obama got on the TV and voiced the fatigue I felt. It is routine. Why has this become routine?

For a long time, I looked the other way when it came to the gun debate or at least just have an internal one of my own. I saw it as a mental health issue (and yeah it is one prong of it). I guess I wasn't being honest with myself in many ways. It is also a cultural issue. And the more I think about it, the more ridiculous the "we need MORE guns" argument sounds. Let me explain in only a way a geek can.

True to my geeky self, whenever there is a mass shooting, I look back to the wisdom of Rurouni Kenshin. Shut up. I think the reason why is Kenshin is in many ways that metaphorical Good Guy With a Gun (tm!). He picks up his sword to protect the weak. That is his thing. However, he uses a reverse-blade sword to do non-lethal damage to his foes. Often, he'll break their fingers in such a way they won't be able to hold a sword properly again and if not, he'll just knock them out so the fuzz can drag them to prison.

But there's the thing about Kenshin: even he can fall victim to the sword's power. Kenshin has two personalities; kooky, spacy Wanderer Kenshin and cold assassin Battousai Kenshin.

Wanderer Kenshin

Battousai Kenshin

 Wanderer Kenshin will knock you out but Battousai Kenshin will slaughter you and think nothing of it. Battousai Kenshin comes out usually when Kenshin faces his past or when the bad guy pushes a button or two (like threatening to kill someone weak). It is an inner battle he must face.

I know Kenshin is fictional, but I feel his story best describes my feelings about the gun debate. There is one powerful quote that is in the picture of the start of the page that best describes how I feel. I kind of look at myself as a pessimist who wants to be an optimist. I want to believe that there are good guys who can neutralize the bad ones but the truth is uglier. Guns are weapons. Guns are tools to use to kill. That is their fundamental purpose. However, I want to believe that good people are out there that can and will stop when another victimizes. But such an occurrence is rare and it is not because more people don't carry. People don't understand the weight of it.

I guess what glares at me the most about the US gun debate is it lacks responsibility. Too few people who own guns seem to really understand that guns are tools designed to kill people. Yes, you can use them to protect people. But we have a gun culture that glorifies them without stopping to fully understand them.  And the sad part is people who claim to understand them are usually the ones that misuse them.

I'm not calling for a full on ban against guns because some people live in areas where it is their livelihood (I'm talking in rural areas) and things like that. But there does need to be some common sense when it comes to regulations. Do you really need more than one? Do you really need a military style weapon when you're not in the military? Things like that. I just feel we need to better educate people about guns and stop glorifying them and if you must have them go through extensive training and background checks. It shouldn't be easy. It SHOULD be a burden.

Are you prepared to potentially take a life accidental or otherwise? What if your gun falls into the wrong hands?

I have a personal relevant story to share. I served in the US Army for four years. When I was in Basic Training, on rifle qualification day I had a misfire. As I was switching out my magazine to go to the next shooting position, I didn't put on the safety and didn't clear the chamber. My finger graced the trigger and a bullet went downrange. The Drill Sergeant picked me up by the straps of my kevlar and threw me in the dirt and screamed at me. I also got smoked for about 30 minutes.

Then, I got an Article-15. I lost a month's pay and lost my rank for a negligent misfire on the range. I expected to get screamed at by the company commander like he reamed into a kid who got slapped with an Article-15 before me. But no. I sat down and he had a talk with me. He told me he had a soldier downrange who accidentally shot a fellow soldier. He couldn't live with himself for what he did and ended up getting discharged for mental health issues. The commander then said that he did not want for me to get into bad habits and find myself in a similar situation. He wanted me to remember what went wrong and to never repeat it because an accident caused by a gun or in this case a rifle is not a reverseable one. It will follow you your entire life.

He was right. Before that, I got comfortable with my M16. Maybe too comfortable. However, our chat forever instilled in me a respect and a sense of caution for the weapon I qualified on. After my hearing, I would never hold a M16 the same way again. Yes, it will protect you in dangerous situations. But you must never, ever forget what its purpose is and when you pull the trigger, you got to be prepared to face the consequences of what happens when that bullet hits the target -- whether it is the point for qualification or ending a life.

That is why the idea that "more guns on the streets will somehow make us safer" is irresponsible. Not everyone is capable of the responsibility needed to carry. And it is not just possessing the skills but the personality and the intent too. 


That is what I mean by responsibility and common sense.  And that is what Kenshin means too. He may admire Kaoru's optimism, but she uses a bamboo sword which is not lethal. He has many times throughout the series chastised those who misuse their power and their swords. People who use the argument that guns protect do not understand its fundamental purpose and probably have never shot a person. And yeah, you can become skilled in the weapon and put it to good use to protect those who cannot or will not carry. That is what military and police forces are supposed to be for.  But just like Battousai Kenshin and problems we have in both the military and police forces, you never know if you are just one quick sudden misunderstanding away of misusing it. And people need to understand that and be weary of it.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Mary Loves To Laugh -- 10 Scenes That Always Make Me Laugh

I love to laugh. I'll laugh at clever jokes, dumb jokes, slapstick, irony, puns, dark humor, light humor, pretty much all of it. I am not really a humor snob. Well, I do have my limits. I don't appreciate rape jokes or anything that is particularly mean-spirited. I grew up loving John Candy and Robin Williams and I think their light-hearted take on humor really formed the base of what makes me laugh at a young age. The next layer up from the base is Simpsons humor. Then it is downhill from there.

Really, John Candy's death heralded rise of cynical humor that became prevalent in the 90s (Still not over his death)

After watching a scene in a movie that without a doubt makes me roll with laughter, I decided to make a list of 10 scenes that always consistently make me laugh no matter how many times I see it.  This will be a countdown list with 1 being the best.

10. The Breakfast Club -- "All I need is a lobotomy and some tights!" 

There is nothing more 1980s, the decade of my birth, than the Breakfast Club. I have seen this movie more times than I could count. I cannot get tired of the tale of five different teenagers spending a Saturday together in detention only to realize they aren't so different after all. But besides the story, this movie has sentimental value to me. My late brother and I used to watch it when it would make its weekly rounds on TBS. He'd get excited over it and would quickly fix himself a snack and sit down and we'd watch it together. We would recite scenes and get each other laughing.

A friend of mine once said comedies are different experiences when you are with people and I think that is true. A lot of what I laugh at in the movie, I laugh at because I remember him laughing at it.

The Breakfast Club is a drama with comedy elements. It has many memorable moments that have seeped into the public consciousness and numerous quotes that have been lampooned and used in AIM status messages. And there are tons of parts of the Breakfast Club that makes me laugh -- especially John Bender Quotes.

This Guy

The quote above comes from when Andrew Clark and Bender get into an argument about school activities. Bender lays the sarcasm on thick. He'll go out for activities. He'll join the wrestling team. "All I need is a lobotomy and some tights!"

Why this line would get my brother and I laughing so hard -- and I still laugh so hard at it -- is simply the fact that Bender begins his sarcastic tirade then suddenly meets that sarcasm singularity. You know, what I mean, in which the tone almost sounds sincere. The delivery of the line also makes it.

You can watch the scene here.

9. Wolf of Wall Street -- Go Run Free

I should not have liked Wolf of Wall Street as much as I did. By all accounts, it does not seem to be a Mary movie. And yes, I have some critiques about it -- mostly that they could have stood to cut about 30 minutes out of it -- but mostly, I really enjoyed the rise and crashing fall of Leonardo DiCaprio.

Like the Breakfast Club, Wolf of Wall Street is a drama with comedic elements. I always chuckle when Jordan in the beginning throws a glass of orange juice in the bushes. When Jordan introduces his business partners and how most of them have something to do with selling and buying weed is another in which I giggle. I laughed hysterically during the famous powerful Quaalude scene when I saw it for the first time. Now, in rewatches, it gets a little less funny each time.

I find that happens a lot with slapstick

There is one scene, though, that for some reason gets more hilarious the more I view it. This is when the Jonah Hill character talks about marrying his cousin and what he would do if one of their kids had special needs. Now, I am actually a Jonah Hill fan. 21 Jump Street is one of my favorite stupid comedies that has come out in recent memory and Hill just has great comedic timing to begin with. He has such a natural way of speaking, even when he is playing an oddball like he does in Wolf of Wall Street. Some comedians will play such characters in such a way that they feel super imposed in the movie -- not that that is always a bad thing -- but Jonah Hill manages to make his style of comedy seep into the movie itself. Granted, as I noted before, this movie is a drama and Hill does dramatic well too -- but his comedic scenes, really were noteworthy.

I know it was the 90s in the movie but that sweatshirt fad really was odd

Note how natural he talks about it.  That is why I can't help but laugh hysterically when I watch this scene.

8. Teen Wolf -- "My Mom Does The Grocery Shopping"

Teen Wolf is one of my guilty pleasures, although maybe not the last couple of seasons (it got very meh). While the TV show is supposed to be a more gritty take on the Teen Wolf franchise from the 80s, I find where it really hits its stride is its comedy elements. The way Tyler Posey and Dylan O'Brien play off each other has to be one of my favorite pairings on the small screen. They are best friends in real life and that translates well. O'Brien's Stiles has hilarious moments, true, but I find Tyler Posey playing his wide-eyed, innocent, naive Scott McCall really gets me rolling.

Looks like a Wolf but is actually a Puppy

There is this scene in which the gif set of it is one of the most popular Teen Wolf posts on tumblr. I always reblog it when I see it and I always end up laughing for a good couple of minutes when I see it grace my dashboard. There is so much just so perfect about this scene. First off, Jackson, the asshole who confronted Scott, is wondering why Scott suddenly shined on the lacrosse field. He has no idea that it has to do with Scott's wolf powers so assumes steroids were used. Scott is not all that bright. He's not even playing dumb because he doesn't want his secret to get out. He honestly has no idea what Jackson is talking about. He doesn't know what juice means. The best part is how this confusion plays out for a few seconds on Scott's face before he says his line, "My mom does all the grocery shopping."

Wait, I have no idea what is going on now
Even now, I am just giggling at that gif. The look really makes the grocery shopping line that much more hilarious.

7. My Boss, My Hero -- Pudding Race

I've mentioned this scene before in my top ten Japanese Dramas but it deserves a place on this list too. Tomoya Nagase is one of my favorite comedic actors. Honestly, his delivery of lines and his facial expressions really get me laughing so hard.

I also have a type (or one of several). Shut up!
I won't lament on about this particular scene. I already touched on it in my jdrama post. But here's the scene in question. I recommend go and watching it. The part where I begin to loose it is when Nagase takes off the kid's jacket and throws it at him. The kid then collapses on the ground dramatically. And is probably stampeded to death. IDK.

6. Hercules -- "Guys, Olympus is that way"

I know it is far from perfect but I love Disney's Hercules. Yeah, I know it's not canon. Hera didn't give birth to Hercules and actually tried to have him killed like she always did with Zeus's numerous love children. But whatever. I understand. Disney had to write a kid's film and there is a lot in Greek Mythology that is not exactly kid friendly. Also, normally I would care, but Hades is not necessarily a bad guy in mythology (if you take the story about Persephone out of the equation). He got stuck as the God of the Underworld and may be unpleasant but not evil. I actually like Rick Riordan's interpretation of him best in the Percy Jackson books. Hades is grumpy and generally not fun to be around but hey, he went to greater effort to protect his demigod progeny than all those losers on Mt. Olympus.

This Hades probably used his children's blood a long time ago

But I am getting off topic. Having said that, I love James Woods as Hades. He really makes this movie. I love his wheeling and dealing interpretation of the Greek God of the Underworld. And he has many great lines and the most amusing dumb henchmen. Without James Woods, I probably wouldn't have watched Hercules as much as I have (although I do like the music a lot).

Anyways, while many Hades lines cause me to smile, there is one in particular that ALWAYS causes me to laugh hard.

After Hades lets out the titans (spoilers), the titans dramatically shout out for Zeus while doing their particular special elemental attack over the landscape. Hades then interrupts and points them in the opposite direction -- towards Mt. Olympus.

This is the response I get when asking for directions
I just love this joke because it is such a bait and switch. You're expecting the climax to get underway. The titans are out. They look cool, bad stuff is about to happen. They're... so friggin stupid.


5. Mean Girls -- "If you're from Africa, why are you white?" 

Mean Girls is one of my most favorite movies. It is witty, thoughtful, memorable, and Lindsey Lohan's only good role. It also introduced me to Tina Fey. I always enjoy her writing. It is snarky, but not mean-spirited. It has reached that perfect balance in my opinion. It is really a rant for another day but I really don't like how comedy nowadays has gone from cynical to just mean and how people think that is edgy. I love snarky humor. I grew up on the Simpsons. But if your joke is bringing down a target that is already down, then it's really not funny. It is just sad.

But once again, I went off topic. Mean Girls has so many hilarious moments, it is hard to say which one always makes me laugh and not just laugh but laugh hard. It is no wonder Mean Girls has entered the cultural consciousness right up there with the Breakfast Club. There will be a day in which kids will say, "Stop trying to make fetch happen" and have no idea where it is from. So I guess -- fetch did happen.

However, there is one scene in particular that always makes me laugh. It involves the scene in which Cady first sits with the Plastics. She mentions how she is from Africa and then Karen Smith, the dumb one, asks if Cady is from Africa, why is she white? Then Gretchen Wieners (my favorite) responds with, "Oh my god, Karen, you can't ask people why they're white!"

Now, I'm gonna shame you on tumblr

The delivery on both those lines gets me every time. The blank look in Karen's face and Gretchen's righteous indignation. It's all perfect. Not to over-explain the joke or anything (but I have been doing this all post!) but what is great about this joke is it is edgy because it is about race but the target is sheltered white girls (a favorite Tina Fey targets to be honest). What Karen said is a typical white girl thing to say. Africa is filled with black people amirite?

Here get the extended scene.

4. Avatar: The Last Airbender -- "That's Rough, Buddy"

Avatar: The Last Airbender is one of my most favorite series of all time while The Last Airbender is my least favorite movie of all time. Funny, how that happens. Avatar does a great job of tying together serious story elements with humor. There are many great lines in the franchise both of humor and those of the thought-provoking persuasion and if you're Uncle Iroh, both.

Uncle Iroh inspires me daily
For those of you who know me well, know I love Zuko the most. I love his pouty-mcpout face. I also love his journey from the spoiled prince as he overcomes his trauma (and himself) to become a great leader and teacher. But a lot of Zuko's lines crack me up, most of it has to do with how he is animated in the process. Whether it is him trying to hold his temper or just looking like a sad sack. My favorite is a subtle change. Aang says, "I don't care what people say, you're very smart, Zuko!" Zuko smiles then suddenly does a take as if to say, "Hey wait a minute, people have said I'm stupid?!"

But the scene I'm talking about here is probably the most famous and most meme'd scene in the series. I'm talking about is this one. In it, Sokka and Zuko are traveling to the prison they believe the Fire Nation took Sokka's father. They talk about past loves and Sokka says his first girlfriend turned into the Moon. The look on Zuko's face cracks me up. It's like the Teen Wolf one above. You can read his thought process. Like, "What do I even say to that?" Then he settles on one of the most beloved (and downright hilarious) lines in the series.

The key to comedy is always timing.

3. The Simpsons -- The Land of Chocolate

As I mentioned before, I grew up on the Simpsons and the show really contributes to what I will find humorous or not. There are many scenes, lines, and episodes that crack me up, even after all these years. Like guaranteed, if Sidshow Bob is in the episode, it is one of my favorites. Ralph Wiggum quotes still get me going. But honestly, there is only one scene that will cause me to helplessly giggle like a titmouse. It is the scene from the episode, "Burns Verkaufen der Kraftwerk." And if that doesn't give it away, here's another hint:

 I am of course talking about this magical scene. Do I even need to explain further?

2. Tropic Thunder -- Matthew McConaughey sees his son as a disappointment

Tropic Thunder is another of my favorite movies and is probably my favorite comedy. There are so many great moments and hilarious dialogue. It also made me like actors I'm not particularly wild about -- mainly Ben Stiller and Tom Cruise. Going back to what I mentioned before, what I like about the edginess in this comedy is the target of ridicule is Hollywood and overbloated egos and budgets. While nothing is above criticism, I feel a lot of people who criticize certain parts of this movie seem to forget that the target is Hollywood and out of touch rich people.

While each actor has a hilarious line or two or a dozen (looking at you, Cruise), the actor that cracks me up so hard is Matthew McConaughey as Tugg Speedman's agent. I don't know what it is about him. Maybe it is his good-natured personality combined with just being plain out of touch.

I don't care if I have to go through a jungle filled with dangerous drug lords, YOU WILL GET A TIVO!
There is one scene in particular that without a doubt just causes me to giggle uncontrollably. It is towards the beginning and McConaughey is calling Ben Stiller asking how the adoption thing is going. Stiller says sadly he thinks all the good ones are taken. McConaughey then says as he looks with great disappointment over at a picture of his own son, "At least you get to pick yours."

I'm laughing so hard at this pic right now
Just the look of such disappointment and disgust, I just lose it. There is so much that is perfect about that scene. The facial expression, the dialogue, and of course the sight-gag of the family picture. Here, watch it for yourself

1. Spy -- The Swedish Bodyguard

Paul Feig is quickly becoming one of my favorite director-screenwriters. Bridesmaids, The Heat, and Spy are all great comedies. I really love how he just believes in his female stars so much. I cannot wait for the new Ghostbusters film. Additionally, I really wish I had Melissa McCarthy growing up. I may have hated myself a little less as a teenager.

There is something about Melissa McCarthy's Susan Cooper in Spy that I strongly relate to. She lacks confidence in the beginning despite illustrating she is more than capable of being a spy. She is surrounded by people who don't believe in her -- except for her bff of course -- and she proves them all wrong.

In the end, Susan Cooper only had to prove to herself she could do it

I found that in of itself is what made this movie so important to me. There were so many scenes in the movie I just related to. One in particular is when Susan goes out to eat with Jude Law's Agent Fine, her partner. Fine is nice enough but there are these small throwaway lines that are just kind of hurtful and he doesn't even realize it either. And also how all her co-workers take advantage of the fact that Susan is practically a work horse. The fact that Susan comes to realize she has worth and grows confident in her abilities was just empowering for me. She realize all those people she thought she wanted to impress really don't matter -- even the hot Jude Law.

Anyways, Spy is hilarious. I cannot recommend this movie enough. There is so much I love about its message, its humor, and its actors. While I laugh at McCarthy's awkwardness in the beginning, Miranda Hart's act as the real Girl Friday, and Rose Byrne's icy bitchiness as Raina, the weapons dealer, there is one set of scenes that I just can't help myself but turn red with laughter.

Spoilers -- Susan Cooper gets an in with Raina by pretending to be a secret bodyguard  her father hired. Soon, only Susan and a Swedish bodyguard named Anton remain. Susan and Anton buttheads from there. At first, Anton is ice cold as Susan begins to antagonize him. Then slowly, Anton begins to break. Several scenes later, Susan demands, "What, are you going to cry?" And Anton collapses into tears.

Melissa McCarthy is a bombastic, comedic force. I imagine it must be difficult to toe the line with her. And here is this Swedish comedian who is not that well-known outside his home country involved in probably the most skilled, hilarious, comedic volley I have ever seen. Seriously, watching the three or four scenes between Susan and Anton is like watching an intense tennis match except instead of a ball, it is hilarious quips. Don't get me wrong, I love the Jason Statham/Melissa McCarthy scenes but I feel the Anton ones are so underrated. And I laugh hysterically every time they happen.

I can't find a clip of this so you're just going to have to watch the movie and see for yourself.

What scenes or lines make you laugh every single time?

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Hey, I Can Be Friends With Boys!

It's been written over and over again. Guy meets girl. Guy and girl become friends, usually after some minor dislike. Then something more develops between the two of them...

Don't get me wrong, I think it is important to be best friends with your significant other. But why is that formula so pervasive to the point that polls that ask if Men and Women can just be friends, the polls lean towards no. Keep in mind, I don't think there is anything wrong with the formula but why can't we just tell interesting stories of a male-female close friendship with nothing romantic?

I got thinking about how this sort of irritates me because I have so many male friends, most of which I have not had romantic feelings for and I believe it is vise-versa. And as I wrote about before, there is nothing wrong or less about platonic relationships. But Male-Female friendships aren't lesser and they do exist and it is possible for it to remain so. It shouldn't be a foreign concept.

I decided to, to prove my point, make a list of my favorite platonic couples that never had any romance between them on either side and also their relationship is defined as equals (so no older brother/older sister or mentor type relationships).  There is more, but here is my five.

1. Liv Moore and Ravi Chakrabarti -- iZombie

I just want to say that if Ravi wanted to be more than platonic with me, that's okay

This show is what inspired this post and is totally my wheelhouse. I can't believe it took me as long as it did to watch this. It is a Police Procedural with a campy horror aspect. I love both of those things! It also has a cute, snarky, bearded guy -- definitely a plus!

For those not in the know, iZombie is about a pair of medical examiners -- the titular couple-- and one of them is a secret zombie. She eats the brains of those who were murdered and gains memories, talents, and personality traits and she uses those abilities to solve mysteries.

I know technically Ravi is Liv's supervisor but I feel their friendship is that of equals. They completely respect each other and show their love through snarking. There is also no romantic feelings between the two of them. In fact, Ravi dates Liv's roommate -- the only person who is snarkier than he is.

I love their friendship so much and how much they honestly try to support each other. It is a true friendship.

2. Asami and Bolin -- Legend of Korra

We all have that friend

 This friendship is subtle and doesn't get a whole lot of play but it is actually an extremely underrated as far as touching platonic relationships go.

Legend of Korra is the sequel series for Avatar: The Last Airbender that follows Avatar Korra and her friends. Asami is a cool-headed, mechanical genius whose pairing off with Korra broke the internet. Bolin, unfairly called Sokka-lite -- is a spacy, good-hearted earth-bender who never can seem to catch a break.

Bolin and Asami have many touching scenes. For instance, Asami is the only member of Team Avatar that Bolin completely confides in. He tries to hard to impress both Korra and his older brother, Mako. But he and Asami have many talks in which Asami gives him great advice. She shows great patience with him, especially as they play Pai Sho.

Also, completely platonic. Bolin or Asami don't show any romantic interest in the other.

3. Jake Peralta and Gina Linetti -- Brooklyn 99

 It was only a matter of time before I had to bring Brooklyn-99 into this. I just had to because Gina and Jake are amazing.

I read in an article at The Mary Sue about how Jake treats his female co-workers as equals. In fact, I would say his best friend is probably Gina. Well, they do talk about their history together. They grew up in the same neighborhood and spent afternoons at Jake's grandma's apartment. This history has caused them to just GET each other. And not only that, they know where to draw the line with their own individual bullshit. Both are self-absorbed in their own way but do have a personal loyalty to each other.

I also find it interesting that Jake and Gina do have an argument because Jake did look down at Gina for being an admin while Jake was a detective. Come to realize Gina has her life together more so than Jake does. But even after that, Gina is willing to help Jake out for very little in return -- which she wouldn't do for anyone else. And Jake always has her back.

4. Luna Lovegood and Harry Potter -- Harry Potter Series

Shippers aside, I love Luna and Harry's friendship. I wish it got more play in the books. The thing about Harry and Luna is that Harry doesn't have to put up a front around her. Yeah, he has his biffles Ron and Hermione but Harry still had to put up the front that everything is okay when things Were Not Okay. He could be honest with Luna and Luna has been consistently there for him, even when it seemed like Harry had no one.

He took her to the Yule Ball and actually had fun despite it all. And with Luna? She had friends who accepted her for her quirks and all.

5. Homer and Ellie -- Tomorrow When the War Began (Movie Only)

The two in question are front and center

 Tomorrow When the War Began is one of my guilty pleasure movies. I know it is kind of silly and campy at times but it is such a fun romp. The movie is based on a book series -- which I have read the first one -- and the differences between the mediums illustrates the point I'm trying to make. First off, the plot of both the series and the movie involves a group of Australian teens who go camping "in the bush" for the week and when they return, it turns out Australia had just been invaded by an unnamed country. Suddenly, like Red Dawn, the teens are forced to become insurgents despite their teen bullshit (and there is a lot of it -- and I love it).

The narrator of the story is named Ellie, your quintessential teenage girl who is responsible but likes to have fun. Homer is her second best friend after her female friend who I can't remember as she's not all that interesting. Homer is the fun, comic relief character (who does grow up a bit in the movie) who likes to troll people. He and Ellie work together extremely well and it is clear they'd do anything for each other. I love how Homer is always goofing off and Ellie is just Not Having Any Of That (but I am hiding a smile cuz that was a funny joke) sort of thing. The two work as the joint leaders of the insurgents. Homer has the guts and the creativity while Ellie is able to cool his impulsivity and bring responsibility. I LIKE their friendship.

I was disappointed in the book. In the movie, Ellie has a crush on a different guy who is a sensitive piano player (cuz of course) and Homer likes the girly, naive Fiona. In the book, while Ellie does like the same guy and Homer has a thing for Fiona -- Ellie and Homer kind of this thing for each other. I mean -- why can't they just be friends?

I didn't finish the book series so I don't know how much of that sticks but as of now, I like movie Homer and Ellie's platonic friendship. Partly because I did have quite a few Homers in my life.


 I guess what I'm saying is not that we should stop the whole they were friends now they're romantic trope but just platonic guy-girl relationships can be just as awesome and special.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Dungeons, Dungeons, and More Dungeons! -- When TV Shows Have Roleplaying Centric Episodes

As I mentioned in my post about how I discovered Dungeons and Dragons, before I actually played I didn't know exactly what it contained. All I knew about it was some throwaway jokes from the Simpsons and how it was the go-to hobby of stereotypically geeky characters. However, this was before the rise of Geek Chic.

Love it or hate it, Big Bang Theory is really indicative of this

Yes, we live in an age in which geeks/nerds are no longer the outcasts but are now mostly accepted in the circle with the popular kids. Now, people who would not previously been associated with the sub-culture subscribe to I Fucking Love Science on Facebook, follow George Takei, and may even *GASP* casually video game. Roleplaying is still pretty niche, though. It is cool to like Sci-Fi, regular science, and gaming (politics of THAT aside) but the average person still backs away slowly at the mention of Dungeons and Dragons.

That still does not stop the fact that it has almost become vogue of geeky TV shows to devote full episodes to one of the geekiest of hobbies. And it is not because I love D&D and roleplaying that I love these episodes. I love these episodes because there is a lot of thought put into them on what it means to be a roleplayer. And also what it means to be a geek.

All the episodes I'll talk about below have quite a few things in common. For one, the lessons of each episode is about finding a place you belong or bonding with a person who looks passed your quirks to see you. Another is also a lesson in empathy. That is one thing I absolutely love about roleplaying is you do learn a bit of empathy. You can choose to walk in someone else's shoes and explore modern day problems thinly disguised in worlds of dragons, spaceships, and elves. There was a study done illustrating how roleplaying is a great way to learn how to empathize. And that is the reason I want to talk about these episodes and how a lot of love was put into them -- both to show what is constructive about roleplaying games and for the hobby themselves.

Spoilers below.

1. Freaks and Geeks

Man, they look so YOUNG

 To start with, let's go back to the magical year of 1999. People feared Y2K, I was a junior/senior in High School, and Geek Chic didn't quite exist yet. This may be part of the problem why this Diamond in the Rough of a show didn't live to see a second season. It now lives on Netflix with a sizable cult-following. You should watch it.

For those who are unfamiliar with the show, it takes place in 1980 and follows a brother and sister who are outcasts at their school. The sister, Lindsey, is identified as a freak and her little brother, Sam, is a huge geek (into Star Wars, Dungeons and Dragons, the whole shebang). The show follows each sibling as they work through their respective cliques. They rarely interact with each other and there is little cross-over until the last episode of the season called "Discos and Dragons."


One of the plots of the episode involves Daniel, played by James Franco, all bummed out that if he fails a test, he'll be held back. So he pulls a fire alarm to prevent taking the test and gets punished by working with the Audio Visual Club (Sam's clique). Up until this point, Daniel is having something of an existential crisis -- feeling his friends drift away and school ending. Sam and his friends accept him and invite him to play Dungeons and Dragons. Daniel does so although he is side-eyeing them and rolling his eyes.

Now to fight North Korea

Daniel makes a dwarf named Carlos and they're off. At first, Daniel is confused and just a little lost but slowly, he gets more and more into it. Then by the end, he's playing Carlos with ease. As the adventure ends, Daniel admits he had a lot of fun and asked if they could play again next week. He's a different Daniel. Through the whole show, Daniel plays this James Dean schtick and he was beginning to realize that was just an act. With Sam's geeks, he found he could let loose and be silly. And he also found he really liked the Audio Visual stuff too. Before, he would have looked at it and thought, "No, I'm too cool for that." Now, a "freak" felt more at home with the "geeks".

The overall lesson is don't knock it until you try it and like what you like. You never know -- you could find a loyal group of friends who you can be yourself around.

Just remember -- make the DM happy

2. Community

Community is a TV show that follows the misadventures of a Spanish Study Group at a Community College. It is one of my favorite shows. The first 2 seasons are just pure gold. However, my favorite episode is one entitled "Advanced Dungeons and Dragons".

The episode starts off paying homage to Lord of the Rings, setting up the reason why the study group is getting together to play a good ole game of D&D. Basically, there is a guy in their class named Fat Neil who seemed to be showing signs he wanted to kill himself so our heroes decide to run a D&D game for him to show he is loved and wanted.

In the process, they didn't invite old man Pierce because he is not exactly sensitive. Pierce finds out and feels slighted. So he shows up using obscure rules and sabotages the adventure Abed had put together for everyone.

Together, everyone else plot to take down down Pierce to defend Fat Neil in the neutral good way that motivated them to get together in the first place.

I absolutely love this episode. Not only does it have some of the best one-liners in the series,

A deadly attack... especially if it contains a bag of books

 there is so much that is heart-breaking... and yet there is such a lining of hope around it at the same time. As Pierce taunts Fat Neil, turning Neil's character of Ducain into Fat Neil, everyone else jumps to Neil's defense. And with their support Neil is able to take the high road. It is -- in D&D terms -- a wrestling between the chaotic evil Pierce with the neutral good nature of the group.
As I mentioned in my introduction, this episode was about empathy. As Jeff says, "This game is silly" but he feels bad enough that he indirectly gave Neil his horrible nickname that he still tries to work his way through the game, even getting all indignant about getting a pegasus to catch Pierce. All to help Neil.

Then as Pierce is a horrible person, everyone uses pity as their arsenal against Grandpa the Flatulent's ego. They pitied the fact that Pierce went to so much effort to make another human feel so horrible about himself. And then, as the icing of the cake, after the game ended, Neil invites Pierce to play next time as if to say that Pierce feeling left out for not being invited was valid. It illustrates that maybe even the biggest asshole has valid grievances.

Good Night... and good luck

 3. IT Crowd

The IT Crowd is another of my favorite shows. It follows the denizens of the IT Department at some corporation; made up of two socially awkward nerds and their boss--who knows nothing about computers and makes up for this by being socially savvy for all three of them. It is kind of a British Big Bang Theory but I feel in a way that is unfair. I almost wrote an entry on why I feel IT Crowd is better in Big Bang Theory (mostly having to do with the characters doing bad things always involves karma biting them in the butt while things mostly work out for the BBT dudes) but I felt like it came out all wrong so scrapped it.

The episode in question is called "Jen the Fredo". This episode has three subplots coming together to form one. In one, Roy breaks up with his girlfriend and spends the episode moping. In another, Jen becomes head of entertainment for visiting business partners and finds herself challenged by the first delegation she has to deal with.  No matter what she does, she can't seem to please them. And finally, Moss is planning a Dungeons and Dragons game.

Oh Moss, it's like my life

Now, for those who don't know, Moss is pretty much a cloudcuckoolander. He seems to be out to lunch, super quirky, and extremely socially awkward. However, he has these moments of insight that really sometimes tie together the heart of the show. And this episode is no different. Seeing Jen and Roy's problem, Moss offers to run the D&D game for the visiting business partners and Roy.

D&D -- a game for intrigued businessmen!

Anyways, the businessmen get super into it. And then Moss places an ex of Roy's character in the game. Roy uses this as to vent his feelings about the break up to Moss in one of the most hilarious moments -- yet strangely touching -- parts of the show.

Their bromance knows no boundaries.

It leads back to my original point about empathy. There is something almost asbergery about Moss at times and he's not especially emotional so the fact that he manages to help his two best friends in such a round about way ties into my original thesis.

You are a good friend, Moss

4. Gravity Falls

 I feel like if I could use a TV show to best describe my personality, it would be Gravity Falls -- it is funny, heartwarming, a little campy, imaginative, and a little unsettling. Honestly, I've been plugging this show left and right to all my friends of late. There is a lot going on here and it is highly imaginative but at the same time playing homage to shows I grew up on (mainly the X-Files and the Simpsons).

Gravity Falls is about a set of twins named Dipper and Mabel who are sent to spend the summer with their Great Uncle (Grunkle) Stan in Gravity Falls, Oregon. When Dipper discovers a book detailing the odd goings on in the town -- everything from gnomes to shapeshifting monsters to bizarre Douglas Adams meets Lovecraft trickster inter-dimensional monsters (I'm looking at you Bill) -- he realizes there is some sort of hidden conspiracy involving the town and his family. Also, it's funny.

Below is a huge spoiler for season 2 so stop reading now unless you welcome the spoilings.

If you complain about spoilers!
The episode involving Dungeons and Dragons is an episode in season 2 called "Dungeons, Dungeons, and More Dungeons". In this episode Dipper gets the latest edition of Dungeons, Dungeons, and More Dungeons and is trying to look for someone to play with. He approaches Mabel who seems into it when she sees unicorns and elves but blanks out as soon as Dipper explains the fine points of the game. He asks Grunkle Stan, who laughs in his face.

Dipper then finds a fan in an unlikely spot -- Grunkle Stan's twin brother Ford  AKA the Author who Dipper wanted to try to get to know anyway. The two bond over the complex game and quickly take over the house with graph paper annoying Stan and Mabel who want to watch the season finale of ducktective.

Ford and Dipper go into the basement and Ford shows a dice he got in his dimension hopping adventures. It is an impossible dice that if you roll you can destroy the universe or... roll an 8.

At this point, the dice is accidentally rolled as Stan and Mabel come in and the game D&D&D comes to life. Dipper and Ford are kidnapped by the villain of the game and Stan and Mabel have to go after them.

Eventually Stan and Mabel meet up with the villain who turns Dipper and Ford into characters on a board and Stan and Mabel are to play them. Dipper and Ford say that the game is heavily on chance (appealing to Stan's love of gambling) and imagination (appealing to Mabel). Using their strengths, our heroes win the day.

In the process, Mabel and Stan learn as to why the geeky things Ford and Dipper are into appeal to them and they reach a new understanding.

Anyways! These were just my thoughts on Roleplaying-centric episodes of my favorite shows. Two entries this week! I'm on a roll.