9:43 PM

Percy Jackson and the Olympians

Today, I spent almost 10 hours reading one book series.

This entire odyssey started out some time last week, when I decided to read "Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief", before the movie came out on Saturday, February 12th. So I read the book.

And got insanely hooked. Like, crack cocaine hooked.

It was bad. I couldn't put the book down.

I saw the movie afterwards, and it was great, but of course, the book is almost always better (except you, "Coraline").

Having realized there was more than one book, I, naturally, had to know more. So I borrowed the second one, as I had done the first, from a friend who conveniently had all five. Talk about enabling. If awesome books were drugs, I would give the local narcotics unit a run for its money.

Saturday. WHOOSH! Second one, gone!

Sunday. BAM! There went the third one.

Monday. Conveniently, it's a holiday. And I had little homework. The fourth and fifth book, in their hardcover glories, never saw it coming.

And now I'm done, left grieving the fact that one of my favorite characters has, as normal in my world, died, and that the book series is over, but at the same time, getting teary eyed at the awe I have for Rick Riordan and his inventiveness and prose. His writing and his world melded perfectly into my idea of what a great fiction writer is. It was like Pixar, in book form.

Basically, go buy/borrow/scan the web for a copy as soon as you can. You won't be let down.

I think one reason I am so completely and ridiculously in love with this series, however, is because it had the ability that all books have: it submerged me in a world where the impossible happens, and I utterly and entirely bought it. The story drew me in like the mention of free food for college kids. One promise of greatness, and I was there. And it delivered.

There are a few great books/book series that I can remember getting almost possessed by; ones that I HAD to finish reading as fast as I can OR I WOULD DIE (caps for emphasis, though perhaps because that's how it feels, too). A few of these series, in no particular order:

1. Percy Jackson and the Olympians by Rick Riordan
2. The Looking Glass trilogy by Frank Beddor (still need to read the 3rd book, but more than ready to!)
3. The Sword, The Ring, The Chalice by Deborah Chester
4. The Grave Book by Neil Gaiman

I love to read, and yes, I realize that most of those are fantasy/sci-fi/heavy fiction. But I love it. I love love love it.

Mostly because it helps me imagine that I can make a difference in the world. Sometimes, you feel so small, that you have to realize that even a seemingly insignificant person can accomplish something great. I mean, the main character in "The Grave Book" is named Nobody - you can't get more blatant than that with the point!

But it's the epic tales, the ones that have no chance of ever actually forming, that make my heart soar, my soul leap, and all those other cliches mostly pertaining to love come true.

I love a good story. I love a good hero. I love it when people who turn bad turn back to good. I love when you get an answer to that unanswerable question. I love when an ordinary person gains an extraordinary ability. And all of those rarely happen in a world that is not two-dimensional and filled with words on paper.

I don't know how many other people feel this way after reading a great book, but you come down from a sort of word-induced high. You feel like crying, something so moved you, even if you're half wondering why you feel like that. And more than anything, for a brief, flickering moment, you think: perhaps it's all true? NEV-AH! Shouts Reason, and there you are, left holding a book, tears in your eyes, wondering "what if?" and realizing you should probably do something productive since you have class tomorrow (like write a blog post...).

Yet at the same time, you feel as if you've left a tiny portion of you within the pages of that book. Something connected, and both of you left a mark on each other - even if the mark you left is the stain from eating salsa while reading. And while it's saddening to think you can never experience that world in that book as a newcomer again, you leave with the knowledge that you have.

I know quite well why it is probably better that the world isn't filled with Greek gods, heroes, kids with ghostly powers, dragons, and events that catapult people into extraordinary positions of power. But sometimes, I'll admit, I wish they did. Life would have clearer white and black boundaries. I'd love to be a hero, or someone who had a distinguishing feature or power, or even someone who is normal and appears last second to save the day almost unknowingly. Yet the truth is, I'm not, and never will be, in the sense that these books inspire in me. And I can accept that.

But it's still with a heavy heart tonight that I go about business as usual, doing last minute forgotten homework assignments (putting off last minute forgotten homework assignments) and getting ready for my eventual meeting with bed.

Today, I spent almost 10 hours reading one book series.

And it was glorious.

4:22 PM

Singleness + 24/7 Comfy Pants = Awesome

What's wrong with being single?

Over the past year or two, I've come to realize something: I don't want a relationship. Sure, it's fun to think about and pretend to be bitter about, but really, I've come to realize that, sometimes, being single is, well, ok.

If you can't tell, it's Single's Awareness Day/Valentine's Day, and naturally, Facebook is flooded with status updates of "I'm having a great Valentine's Day!", or "Spending the day with my wifey/husband/girlfriend/boyfriend/Ben and Jerry's", or even, "Sitting down to watch for our annual violent movie/Valentine's day celebration". It's a busy day, in other words. You should have seen the amount of women at Target's card section yesterday. Today, I'm sure all the men are there.

But as I myself perused the card section for a nice card for my parents (sorry sisters, I'm cheap), I realized that this year, I didn't really care about not being in a relationship.

You see, I could probably be in a relationship, if I wanted to be. But it wouldn't be the kind of relationship I want. There wouldn't be that, for lack of better term, magic, that is so often associated with being with someone.

Unrealistic? Probably. But I'm young. I've got time to be picky. So why not be so? I'm ready to party hard now (by party, I mean stay up until 5am reading "Percy Jackson and the Sea of Monsters - awesome book!) without having to worry about getting up and looking nice for someone tomorrow. I can be a slob and sit in my comfy pants all day without having to explain myself to a significant other.

I read a great blog post by someone who also has a view of singleness as being awesome, and waiting for something epic instead of something easy. Read it here.

It seems like there's a stigma on single people. There's something wrong with us, our great-grandmas or uncles or aunts are quick to tell us. "Go to college, find a nice boy/girl!" Or "Don't worry, someday you'll find someone!" It's as if everyone in the world is expected to match up and be on their happy way by the age of 30 or 40. And it's not the age I'm looking at here as the problem, it's the "expected to match up".

What if we DON'T want to find someone? What if we go to college and come out with a diploma by spring, and no circular accessory for our fingers? Being single is fun, and liberating, and lets us explore the world and the options before us. We're those people who sit on the fence post and are surprised when we have the chance to get into something, but don't.

Why are we surprised though? I think we're just realizing that we don't want to be in a relationship, so we run when something comes close to being it. We're either not ready, or sometimes, we're holding out.

That's right, holding out.

Everyone wants something epic, but few people hold out for it. Well guess what, we're the ones who want the pie AND the cake AND the ability to eat both, at once. "Epic!" is our battle cry, and we hold out, waiting for it to come over the hill on it's white stallion/dragon/souped up sport car. While we wait, however, we're the liminal people. We're the ones on the borderline; we don't follow society's expectations. We're confusing, and often odd, perhaps eccentric, but we don't mind. After all, we've made it this far along without losing our minds. Or we have, and we don't know it.

There's nothing wrong with being single, and loving it, despite what the media or other people say. We have our doubts and our low points, of course, just like all you committed people have those times where you wonder if you're with the right person. But we get through them, get over them, and go on owning the highest score on Grand Theft Auto that we happened to set ourselves three nights ago. In fact, we could call today Single's Celebration Day, and be perfectly satisfied!

So go forth, my single brethren, and live life!

And don't forget what day it is - eat another brownie, or cookie, or fattening item. After all, we can wear comfy pants the next day and not feel ashamed.

10:49 PM

Reading List

Just a "for fun" post, so you all can know what I currently have on my reading list FOR FUN. That's right, FOR FUN. This hasn't happened in at least three years, perhaps four!

1. Eat, Pray, Love
2. Coraline
3. The Hunger Games
4. Shutter Island
5. Push
6. Perks of Being a Wallflower
7. The Lightning Thief
8. The BFG
9. The Trickster and the Paranormal
10. The Great War for Civilisation
11. The Lovely Bones

I'm hoping to read the novels that movies come from, to inspire, and mostly because, well, I'm interested. I'm done with the first two, so on to something else! Wish me luck, and wish me luck in getting studying done with all this coolness lying around...

10:54 PM

The Academy for the People!

So I'm a media communications major who is frustrated with the film world right now. Why, you ask?

The Academy Awards.

Ok, perhaps it is a bit harsh to rag on the entirety of the film world. I still like Pixar. And Jim Henson. And Noah, that creator of "Fish Hooks" that I met while interviewing on the Disney studio lot. But film critics, film students, and the film elites, yup, you make the black list right now.

This season, the 82nd Oscars will premiere with quite a few unexpected items on the list. For one thing, the Best Animated Feature now has 5 nominations instead of 3, thanks to over 16 movies entering for a coveted spot. No issues with this on my end, go animation!

Best Director sees Kathryn Bigelow, with "The Hurt Locker", as the first female director to be nominated AND supported by the DGA. Again, no issues! I'm all for more females coming into the business, and it's her first movie? Even better.

Best Picture. This is where the problem emerges. Especially among the critical eyes of the critic and film student.

The Best Picture category is now 10 slots instead of the traditional 5, for very vague reasons. Most of us think it's to get more publicity. Probably true. But the nomination list is what's getting film students and film critics annoyed. "Avatar", "The Blind Side", "District 9", "An Education", "The Hurt Locker", "Inglourious Basterds", "Precious", "A Serious Man", "Up", and "Up in the Air".

The real problems for most people seem to be "Avatar", "The Blind Side", "Up", and possibly "District 9". And while I at first agreed that "Avatar" was an odd choice, as it's not very original, I got to thinking about why these movies made it this year (not that I don't think "Up" couldn't make it normally - it honestly is one of the best movies of the decade, it's just that people seem to hate animation being a 'serious' movie). A lot of film students say these movies are considered this year because they are box office hits. And yes, that's true, they were hits.

But did anyone stop to think: maybe...just maybe, the Academy is finally realizing that movies are for the people?

I can see film students falling, flailing, at the thought of society amounting to nothing more than "Avatar" as fine entertainment. "It's Dances with Wolves all over again!" they cry. "Avatar" can't POSSIBLY be art. Art is high, noble, lofty, and wait, what was that under your breath? Not understood by most people?

I disagree.

Strongly.

In fact, I think that art is supposed to reach people, EVERY type of person, and mean something to them. That's what art is. I hate modern art, personally, which is why I also don't like ultra modern movies. But some abstract art is awesome, and some modern art can make a point. So can cliched movies. Because cliches exist due to the fact that they work, and often have a grain of reality buried within them. And when movies like "Avatar" come along that tell an age old tale and KEEP PEOPLE'S INTEREST, doesn't that mean there is art in it?

"Avatar" is beautiful. It should win technical awards out the wha-zoo. But it also broke box office records (yes, I know "Gone With the Wind" holds number one, when adjusted for inflation, but the only people who really, really care are trivia collectors and film students who weren't impressed by "Avatar" and/or enjoy flouting "high film knowledge" in everyone else's face). People went BACK to the movie, more than once, to see the world, to be in that spirit of discovery that the movie so strongly conveys. And of course, the message. It's a mixture of Seuss's 'The Lorax' and "Fernfully" and "Dances With Wolves", and any other nature story you can think of. The characters were identifiable, though. We got to see the bad guy defeated. Good triumphed. And that doesn't happen in the real world. There are no absolutes (or rarely are), there are few truly happy endings. "Avatar" lets us believe that there can be.

And it moved people.

And it is art.

So what's wrong with it taking a Best Picture nomination? It wasn't original? How much originality is there in Hollywood, in most stories, really? Look at how much gets poured out of Hollywood, and how much goes under our detection. There's a difference between movies that hit home, and movies that are entertaining, but impart little lasting emotion or point. Indiana Jones is great, but what do we learn from him? How about Bill and Ted? Some things become classics because the message is there, but the entertainment value overshadows it, or is equal to it. "E.T.", "Back to the Future", and numerous other cult classics. Others become cult classics because they are so far above most people's heads that only those who specialize or have an interest in that subject are moved or entertained: "Rocky Horror", "Donnie Darko", numerous others that are played at midnight in theaters or that people gather together in the same groups to watch yearly. And then, there are the movies that find a balance, but manage to impart the meaning perhaps over the entertainment, like "Casablanca", "Gone With the Wind", "Juno", etc.

It's almost like the Supreme Court's ruling on what pornography is: "we just know". You just know, sometimes, when you watch something if it has a higher quality to it or not.

The problem is...Hollywood has forgotten that even in this goal of entertainment and enlightening, their audience is the normal human being. We don't understand esoteric voyages into the mind of messed up people, because most of us are not as messed up as the extremes on the big screen. Artistic movies are nice, but often, the movie loses itself in the beauty on screen and forgets to linger on characters, story, etc. The movie attempts to sound lofty, intelligent, ARTISTIC. Like the director or writer or production assistant running to get coffee is part of a larger order of the universe that is enlightened, and has deemed to impart this wisdom to the normal human being without watering it down for us unenlightened heathens.

And that, my friends, is why the Academy has been losing support from the public. Because it has become so caught up in appearing SMART, ENLIGHTENED, ARTISTIC, that is has started to see out 'art' that no longer can identify, shape, or be understood fully by the general public. It panders to a world that is mostly behind the camera already, making the movie. "The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus" tries so hard to make a point about imagination versus earthly delights, the complexity of humanity, and the 'gray' aspect to everyone that it tries to say all three things, all the time, in everyone. It isn't broken up for us to understand. We're thrown into this world with a bunch of characters we can't identify with, talking about a concept that is never made clear, all for the sake of appearing independent from the main stream Hollywood - to be ARTISTIC.

What happened to art for the people? Why are we making art for the artists? Why can't we enlighten PEOPLE who AREN'T artists? I understand about a world view of a director or writer that needs to be shared, that isn't common. And in no way am I saying that highly abstract or artsy or independent films are bad. We need them to express opinions that need an outlet. Sometimes just for pure fun, sometimes because we feel that our soul will burst, pop, ignite into flames if we don't get the word out to the few that will comprehend it. But we're making so many of these almost ethereal films these days, is it any wonder most people are turning to the People's Choice Awards theses days instead of the Academy?

Oh, I understand about buying your way into the Academy Awards. It happens every year. (Look at the Coen Brothers returning once again. I haven't seen "A Serious Man", so I can't pass full judgment, but the trailer for the movie looked an awful lot like "Fargo" to me. Perhaps they are still riding off the "Fargo" win back in the older days.) And sometimes, nominations are there that probably shouldn't be. But honestly, to say it doesn't belong because it's POPULAR with the masses? Because the story is simple? SIMPLICITY WORKS. And simplicity is appreciated in a complicated world.

Now before you throw things at me, or assume I'm ungrateful, I feel the need to say that my opinion on what is a classic or a cult classic could change. Perhaps I'll watch "Inglourious Basterds" and be changed for life on what makes amazing film. Perhaps not with that movie...but with something. It could happen. Don't discount it yet!

But for now, I want to ask all of you film students out there: is art really the movie that the majority of the public dislikes? Or the movie that preaches values that you walk away from not quite sure what was going on? Or even the movie that is beautiful, and philosophical, and talky, and REAL? Or is it the thing that people identify with, no matter how unreal or how real, how ugly or how beautiful, how hard hitting or how soft?

I say: if "Avatar" is so well loved by a majority of people, then it deserves to be there. Same with "The Blind Side" (again, haven't seen it, but I've heard nothing but great things about it). And with "Up". And with "District 9". People watch it, and take away something from it, including my mom, myself, my friends, and the scientist who was so moved he wrote an article about the joy of science in "Avatar" (in the New York Times, no less, read it here).

So what if they aren't as high-brow or elite as other possible movies? What happened to the Academy recognizing the opinion of people, those outside the film industry? No, the awards shouldn't just take the top box office grossing films and slap those on for Best Picture, or Best Director, or even Best Cinematography. But the people should have some say.

So go "Avatar", and "The Blind Side", and "Up", and every other movie that doesn't meet the level of abstraction Picasso can safely say he has! It's easy to say something isn't art - it's hard to recognize art in the things that those who are educated on the 'BEST', as set forth by others who determine what is beautiful and what is too common to be sublime.

It's a trap that film critics and film students fall into, myself included: the trap of the nitpicker. We notice things that weren't perfect, weren't great, didn't compare to this or that film that is venerated as being the ABSOLUTE best thing since sliced bread or the invention of duct tape. We lose the idea that movies can not be perfect AND be perfect for people at the same time. I used to hate "Casablanca" because it was too slow. Now, older, I love it. It's got a human element to it that emerges softly. And it's beautiful. AND entertaining. Even if the woman is the typical, helpless damsel, and the man is the typical, debonair, no care yet world weary man.

It's finally time to give some humanity, some level of identity with the common person back to the Academy.

After all, a majority of butts in those seats belong to someone who doesn't work on set.