Hulk Smash

I am taking a writing class at the community college. My only paper has been about karate.

That’s my life in a nut-shell.

It is very strange; I have been telling people that I am going through a mid-life crisis, but that’s impossible because I’m only seventeen. (At least I hope it’s impossible. Maybe I’m only going to live to be thirty-four and this really is a mid-life crisis.) This crisis has given me a drastic personality switch. I don’t like school. My room is a mess. I drink more coffee than is good for me. I’m no longer a morning person. I find being mean fun. I am not interested in my future. I like to read comic books.

The one thing I still really enjoy is karate. I am at the dojo every single day, even if I go there just to watch everyone else do what I love. I have fallen asleep twice at the dojo. The first time I was curled up like a cat in a saucer chair during an entire 45 minute class. I had just gotten done with my own class and should have felt energized. But no, my evil Dr. Jekyll side took over and I sacrificed all of my dignity for a nap. The second time was in full view of the front door and windows to the sidewalk outside. It was on the rickety bamboo bench that has been fixed by duct tape. I guess that it is now normal for me to sleep wherever I want to.

I don’t like learning about anything except karate and superheroes. The superhero thing is completely unprecedented. (Notice how many E’s that word has. I must remember that next time I play hangman.) One of the main reasons I haven’t liked superheroes is because of how incredibly sexist they are. Why do women have to be sex objects in order to save the world? It is sickening, and it makes me so mad that I have given many a rant about it. Anyway I like Superman. He’s awesome, and I saw the original Superman with Christopher Reeve which I enjoyed more than all of my sisters combined. (Even though they had some ridiculous sexist parts that made me as angry as The Hulk.) And then I started liking Wonder Woman after I saw this:

She's epic

She’s epic

This was drawn by Michael Lee Lunsford. I love it. This is a superhero who is not wearing her underwear and being weak. She looks like she could actually do some damage.

In my quest for some more epic female superheroes, I found She-Hulk. I love that she is gigantic green woman. She is strong and she could crush you. But to me, the most disturbing part is the lack of clothing she generally wears. Why, She-Hulk, why? You are an intelligent woman. A lawyer for crying out loud!  Why aren’t you more self-respecting? You could be green and beautiful in a totally non-sexual way. I’m going to try and get Sherlock to make an epic picture of her and then I might post it.

Wow. Now that I’ve gotten to the end of this post, I don’t even know what it’s about. I’m just surprised at how much I changed in a couple of months. I am an angry, unmotivated, irresponsible person.

But that could just be my secret identity.

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The Sameness

My mom read The Giver by Lois Lowry aloud to my sisters and me before we saw the movie last weekend. It was the second time Sherlock and I had read the story and the first for everyone else.

Something that stuck out to me this time was the “Sameness.” All of the people in the world of The Giver had decided to make everything the Same in order to eliminate problems. They had no colors, no real families, and rules for Sameness that all the children memorized in school. It sounds extreme, but don’t people naturally make their own Sameness in our current world?

Most people run in circles with others of the same race, economical class, or value systems. We have our own “rules” for what is normal and what is not. These are generally about etiquette and style. If the rules are broken, you are punished by being labeled “weird.”

People feed off Sameness and are quite willing to conform in order to keep the Sameness. Often I see groups of friends dressed in almost the exact same way as each other. Even “weird” people by others’ standards hang out together. There used to be hipsters; now hipsters are mainstream.

The fight against Sameness is a well known theme in movies, books, and all other stories. While we seem to have a need for Sameness, we have a desire to be unique. It is a very, very strange mix of traits.

What are we to do? With no Sameness, there is disorder. With Sameness life is boring and stressful and sometimes downright dangerous. (Read The Giver.) There is natural good Sameness among all of the human race. It can be beautiful how people, who should have nothing in common, can connect around the world. And yet, we are more than just-like-everyone-else.

I would almost like to ask what other people think about this, but I have a dilemma. If a lot of people agree with my thoughts, I will be caught up in Sameness. If no one likes what I say, I will be disappointed that I’m the only one who thinks like I do.

Being human is a curious thing.

 

 

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My Novel Ideas

When I was between the ages of twelve and thirteen, I had completely decided that I was going to be a novelist. I loved reading novels, right? So writing them is like reading them, only backwards…. right? I had never even finished writing a short story before. To solve that problem, I got just about every book from the library about writing.

I tried to follow all of the advice from these books at once. For example, I wrote outlines for stories. That literally sucked every bit of fun out of writing. One book suggested using as few words as possible to get your point across. I tried to do that when writing a poem. That poem had zero rhythm or anything else that makes a group of words into a poem. (I like being wordy anyway). Somewhere else I read that you should try to write with others. Almost nothing destroys productivity like working with others does.

Since then I have stopped trying to follow rules and to instead simply try to write. Despite that, I have found several quite excellent books about writing that are great inspiration. Not a single one recommends writing outlines.

The first of these books is Spilling Ink: A Young Writer’s Handbook by Anne Mazer and Ellen Potter. I didn’t know who either of those people were; it was just the next book on the shelf. The book is all about writing, but it is also just fun to read. The authors give pointers on every area of writing. At the moment I can’t remember why I liked this book so much even though I have read it at least twice. I guess it’s time for another reread.

Unlike Spilling Ink, I got Writing Magic: Creating Stories that Fly because of the author, Gail Carson Levine. Gail Carson Levine is best known for her book Ella Enchanted, even though I like The Two Princesses of Bamarre better. My friends and I went through a phase when we were really into princess books. Anything by Levine or Shannon Hale we read. Writing Magic is excellent because it uses examples from her own books as well as tons of others. One thing that she emphasized was always saving your writing. She claims that once you hit teenagerhood, you won’t remember childhood when you are an adult. The only way to remember what you were like is if you save all of your writing. I don’t know if I believe her, but I have still gotten into the habit of saving everything. I might want something later even if I think it is terrible now. That’s why I have way to many “unfinished drafts” for this blog, and I’m so annoyed that that I lost the post that was meant to be published last Thursday.

I like No Plot? No Problem!: A Low-Stress, High-Velocity Guide to Writing a Novel in 30 Days by Chris Baty because it reminded me that writing is fun and only insane people attempt to do it. This book is about people who kill themselves while writing a 50,000-word book in a month. I have told my dad about it several times because his reaction is always the same, “30 days? No way. Did you read that right?” Then he asks why you can’t just spread it over a longer period of time so it’s not so painful. Then he seems to almost decide that he’s going to do it. Chris Baty was the person to start NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). I haven’t done it yet, but I’m planning on doing it some day…

The last book I like for the writing inspiration isn’t a writing handbook at all. It’s The Wand in the Word: Conversations with Writers of Fantasy by Leonard S. Marcus. It is a collection of interviews with authors such as Brian Jacques, Lloyd Alexander, Madeleine L’Engle, Jane Yolen, and many more. At the end of each interview the authors give advise to anyone who would also like to be a writer. Because of this book I have unforgiving grudges about authors that I have never read because they did not properly appreciate Lord of the Rings.

This summer I have been rereading favorite childhood books which is reminding me of old childhood dreams. Maybe I will finally reach my goal of finish a short story. After that, I’m sure to write a world famous novel.

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The 13th Birthday is the Best

I have never been much of a movie person, but movies based off of books are even worse. They may be good movies, but they are ruined for everyone who knows that the book is much better. I once tried to watch To Kill a Mockingbird, but I never finished it. It wasn’t because I thought it was bad, it was just much lower than my expectations. The Help movie fell a little short of The Help book. While I liked The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe when I was younger, I now find more pleasure by poking fun at the Narnia movies than actually watching them.

That is why The Lord of the Rings movies are so incredible.

There is a certain amount of ceremony to The Lord of the Rings in my house. First of all, you cannot read the books until you are thirteen years old. You cannot watch the movies until you have read all the books. Then it is a bit of a family affair the first time one of us watches the movies. Everyone has been looking forward to this moment for about a month while the new thirteen-year-old is discovering Middle Earth. We have long discussions about the books where we laugh or moan about old quotes and scenes we have forgotten about. We  throw red herrings into our conversations to keep the person on her/his toes. I have remarked about how so-and-so dies even though they live to the end of the book. I have perpetuated false alarms. I do this because in our excited conversations, at least a few spoilers get dropped, so we have to make something up that is outlandish so that the reader won’t believe anything we say and will continue to read the books with great expectation.

Once we finally get to watch the movies we have to constantly be shushing one another. You may mock Legolas, Arwen, and Frodo, but keep it to a minimum. You may say some of the best lines with characters, but not entire dialogues. You may gasp, scream, etc., but only when it isn’t drowning out what anyone is saying. This is all to make sure that the person watching the movies for the first time gets to fully enjoy it and compare it to the books. That is always so much fun, but the really fun time is when we watch it for the second time.

Sif turned thirteen last October. Sherlock and I strove valiantly not to interject comments and for the most part succeeded. Sif (NOT me or Sherlock) started screaming instructions at the characters without realizing it. She said things like, “No Frodo! Sam’s your friend, not Gollum!” She still claims that she does not remember doing this. (Which means she was watching them the proper way: getting completely lost in the story.) Now we are watching the movies again in 30-minutes-a-night segments.

All of the teenagers and adults in my family have at least one thing in common with each other: their love for The Lord of the Rings. Because of it, we have immediate reference points to knowing how each other thinks. We know what each person’s favorite scenes are. We know that the perfect man for each of us girls would, without a doubt, be exactly like Aragorn. None of us likes eating cherry tomatoes.

I hate this man

We all hate this man

And my dad only has to say one thing to make anything from bacon to tacos be suddenly very unappealing.

meat-is-back-on-the-menu

I don’t consider myself a real fangirl, and I don’t appreciate it when people trivialize LOTR with geekiness. But there is nothing like re-watching three 3-hour-long movies in your own living room on a summer evening. Yes, I laugh too loud. Yes, I still gasp at things I knew were going to happen before hand. Yes, I practically have the entire thing memorized. No, that does not mean I am going to get tired of watching it.

I just love a good book and I love a good movie.

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A Proper Dragon

I have mentioned before that I am not much of a picture person, but I do love illustrations of fantasy things. That is why I have gotten Arthur Spiderwick’s Field Guide to the Fantastical World Around You by Tony DiTerilizzi and Holly Black from the library more times than I can count, even though I have never read (and am not planning on reading) the other Spiderwick books. I adore just looking at the pictures over and over again.

Illustrations by Arthur Spiderwick

Illustrations by Arthur Spiderwick

But even with art such as this, I always feel like there is something not quite right. I can’t really put my finger on what is wrong. When I gaze at fairytale illustrations or Google dragons and fairies, I get the feeling that real faeries don’t look like that and real castles aren’t really designed that way and real dragons, well, aren’t they supposed to be more fierce, but still beautiful? No one seems to be able to get that ratio of horrible but awe inspiring. That is why I am thrilled that I found Shapeshifters by Adrian Mitchell.

Adrian Mitchell’s writing is fairly good, but the true beauty in the book is Alan Lee’s illustrations.

 

The cover is not even the best part

The cover is not even the best part

His pictures look right. If I wrote a book, I would want him to illustrate it. He has this mystical look about his pictures and yet they look real to me. The horrifying stories have horrifying pictures. There are some awesome pictures of people turning into trees. I did what I so rarely do and read the illustrator’s biography on the back flap of the book. Alan Lee illustrated many of J.R.R. Tolkien’s books and helped make The Lord of the Rings movies.

Oh. I probably should have known that.

The Lord of the Rings shaped what makes a good fantasy, movie, and book for me. Apparently I actually looked at the pictures without realizing it because Alan Lee knows the right way to make a dragon.Alan Lee dragonPictures like these almost bring tears to my eyes.

Now that I’m done with this post, I am going on my library catalog to request every book Alan Lee has illustrated. For once I’m not planning on reading a single one.

Who is able to make a proper dragon (etc.) in your eyes?

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How Golf was Invented (And Other Stories)

I have been rereading The Hobbit and I was quite excited to find one of my favorite quotes:

“If you have ever seen a dragon in a pinch, you will realize that this was only poetical exaggeration applied to any hobbit, even to Old Took’s great-grand-uncle Bullroarer, who was so huge (for a hobbit) that he could ride a horse. He charged the ranks of the goblins of Mount Gram in the Battle of the Green Fields, and knocked their king Golfimbul’s head clean off with a wooden club. It sailed a hundred yards through the air and went down a rabbit-hole, and in this way the battle was won and the game of Golf invented at the same moment.”

This quote so pleases me because it is the kind of story I would tell. I think up stories all the time to explain seemingly unexplainable things. Or at least to explain things that don’t have very interesting explanations.

There is a lovely river trail that I like to visit often. Just about every spot has a story behind it that I have unconsciously made up. One of my favorite places has trees growing there that are different from the rest of the trail. They are more like birches as opposed to evergreens. It is a beautiful grove with delicate green leaves making a ceiling overhead. The whole place seems tinted with green light. That’s the place where the faeries live.They are mischievous faeries (because practically all faeries are) and they like to trip joggers and get dogs’ leashes tied around trees. You shouldn’t stay there too long because the Lady of the Wood might find you and take you to her revels forever and you would forget everything else. Of course, that wouldn’t be all bad so you might as well stay as long as you like.

My sister Sherlock is a night owl and sleeps in a lot- especially since it’s summer. Sunny was asking me why she wasn’t up yet. I explained that Sherlock often turns into a werefox at night. She can’t always get up right away because she has to morph back into herself. I then mimed her long snout shrinking back into her face, her legs growing longer, and her tail growing shorter. “And you know why she has such long hair? Because sometimes her fox ears don’t always leave, so she must brush her hair over them so that no one gets suspicious.” I still think that this is the best explanation for Sherlock’s sleeping habits.

I assumed that most people could make up stories on the spot and most people weren’t always content with ordinary explanations. I have discovered that this is not the case. Yesterday I met this girl who loved dragons and had a dragon eye necklace.

It looked something like this

It looked something like this

I was sitting across from her at a long table full of girls. We were supposed to be making conversation, so I asked her where she had gotten the necklace and what kind of dragon it was. She said if she had known someone would ask her that, she would have thought up a good story.

“Here’s what you could have said.”

I started telling the sort of story that my six-year-old brother would have liked. I wasn’t intending for it to be all that great and I just wanted to make conversation like a normal person. I said something like,

“You were on Mt. Bachelor skiing. You aren’t a very good skier so you fell through the snow into a cavern. There you woke the Bachelor Dragon after it had been asleep for a thousand years. Because you are a quick thinker, you used your ski poles to impale the dragon and thus defeated it. You didn’t think anyone would believe you, so you took one of the dragon’s eyes and made a necklace out of it then and there. And yet to this day, no one believes you anyway.”

As I told this story, the table of girls quieted until everyone was listening. When I finished one of the girls said that she wished she could come up with stories like that. Everyone seemed impressed as it my story was out of the ordinary. I realized then that it was. I discovered that I have a storytelling superpower. I can entertain people at will and I am technically a creative thinker.  I also discovered that I need different conversation starters.

Do you like to tell stories? If not, do you have another secret superpower?

 

 

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I Am a Samurai

It has been made rather embarrassingly clear what a Hermione Granger I am.

Hermione from the Harry Potter books is an academic freak. She has never come close to failing a class but constantly worries about it. She is a rule addict who can’t help but please teachers and answer questions. She enjoys learning.

As the series continued, I found that Hermione was definitely one of my favorite characters.

The main reason why I have discovered that I am so much like Hermione is that before I do anything, I like to study it thoroughly. Hermione would read all of her textbooks before the term at Hogwarts would even begin. I recently started doing karate. Before I began I read so much about karate and other martial arts that I may know more than some of the black belts at my dojo. I know the origin of karate. (It was a guerrilla martial art used to fight the Japanese off. The people of the invaded island were not allowed to have weapons, which is why karate means “Empty hands.”) I know the difference between kung fu and jujitsu. (Kung fu is Chinese, jujitsu is Japanese. Karate is a form of jujitsu.) I more or less understand what chi is. (Don’t ask me to explain it, and don’t ask me if I believe in it.)

I now know that karate is probably the best sport I could possibly do. I like that our uniforms (called gis) feel like I’m wearing pajamas. I like that we get to go barefoot. I am such a hippie. If I could go barefoot everywhere I, without a doubt, would. I like that there is a lot of yelling. Naturally, I have a loud voice and I would like to yell everything I say, but everyone else hates it when I do that. In karate we’re required to yell. It’s called a kiai and is done at almost every punch, block, and kick. Karate comes with its own culture and language, Japanese. I love cultures and languages. I like that I’m supposed to slowly work my way up through different goals before I do anything too crazy. I’m a klutz, and I don’t mind wearing a white belt to warn everyone of the fact.

One of the best things about the dojo I go to is that it has a library. It’s one little shelf in the corner. I may be the first person in many moons to check out a book, but that just means more books for me. I am currently reading Code of the Samurai translated by Thomas Cleary (the original book was called Bushido Shoshinshu by Taira Shigesuke). It inspires me to become the best samurai I possibly can be. It also inspires me to give lectures about it to anyone who will listen.

I’m sure Hermione would be proud. Since I can’t be a witch, I might as well be a karateka.

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