Thursday, January 31, 2013

On Writing and 'Someday'

I've had to put my writing aside for the present, as I am scrambling to get as much sewing as possible done before I leave for Florida in a week. Which is funny because all fall I had to push myself to write, and now I'm dying to write and I can't!

I did get the first three chapters of #3 of the Ruah Chronicles done (well, 1st draft!) and shared them with my editor who was very positive, and laughed at all the right places which was extremely encouraging. Obviously there is clean up work to do, but we're not worrying about that until draft 2. Right now it's just write write write. Hopefully I'll be able to get a lot done in Florida, because I'll have two weeks with no sewing machine. (Horrors!)

Anyhow, I am really having fun writing this book. I love Paris, I love throwing in French words, and I utterly adore the characters we've developed. I can't wait to share them all with you... hopefully sooner rather than later!

It hits me every now and then anew... "I'm going to be a published author!" Not that I've ever really doubted that it would someday happen, but 'someday' always translated into my mind as "sometime in the far, far future that I may never actually reach because then it wouldn't be 'someday' it'd be 'today'." And yes, I know that makes no sense, but I'm sure those of you who have waited a long time for something big can understand what I'm getting at. And obviously I'm not published yet, but someday now has a more definite date for me than 'the far, far future.'

I'll be 24 in a month. I've always hoped that I would get published sometime around my 25th birthday. Now it looks like that could very well happen. Which is amazing because I've been telling stories for almost twenty years... my very first 'writing' was dictating to my mother as she typed for me. Storytelling is in my blood. (Or, as I once told a friend, "We write because if we don't, our blood will shrivel.)


Monday, January 28, 2013

X-Men Watch Downton Abbey


I am imagining the X-Men watching Downton Abbey.
(and yeah, I’m going with traditional X-Men, forgetting all the changes of the last year. And deaths, No ones dead.)
(oh, and if you've already seen this on my tumblr, sorry. I wrote it there and then realized it might amuse my other readers here as well.)
IT would all start with Captain Britian insisting Betsy watch Season One when it first aired in the UK. She wouldn’t want to watch it at first because it would remind her too much of her own family, but then she would get sucked in and make everyone in the X-Mansion watch it.
Kurt would watch it solely for Maggie Smith. He would then drag Kitty into the show, who at first was really skeptical, but then became a huge Sybil fan, and now goes around wearing a shirt that says “Sybil Lives!”
Scott would go between liking Matthew and Lord Grantham and wouldn’t get why the women are always mad at them.
Emma would be the only person who liked Mary in season one, and then no one else would admit they liked her in Season Two because they couldn’t bear for Emma to be right.
Hank would start wearing a t-shirt that said “Keep calm and have Carson bring tea” and would be the biggest Carson fan ever. 
Storm would sigh and get annoyed with how stupid the characters could be, but continued watching the show because she loves Mrs. Hughes.
Magneto ‘accidentally’ watched an episode and became really invested in Thomas’s storyline, but always makes disgusted remarks when Thomas messes his grand schemes up. He’s also the only person besides Scott who likes Lord Grantham.
Piotr would get really absorbed in it, refuse to hear any spoilers, and utterly break down in tears when Sybil dies. He and Remy have a Tom Branson fan club.
Rogue would get annoyed with the posh politics (although she’d love the dresses) but likes the show enough to watch it and yell at the TV whenever anyone a) did something stupid or b) let someone walk all over them. 
Bobby would torrent the whole thing and pretend to drop spoilers around Piotr, who would freak out and start holding his ears whenever he’s around  Bobby.
Pixie would beg the Professor to use Cerebro to read Julian Fellowes’ mind so they could find out what was happening next. He would refuse, of course.
No one ever caught Wolverine watching it, but one day when Kitty and Storm were discussing whether or not Bates was innocent, he muttered, “Course he’s innocent, he’s the only decent part of the show.”

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Downton Abbey 3.5.

(Review originally posted in October, 2012. Episodes 1&2 were combined for the American broadcast, making this the 5th British episode, but only the 4th US.)

This is a serious spoiler warning. I know most people on tumbler have been unable to avoid this because the fandom has been vomiting it up. But still, if you haven't been spoiled yet, please don't let me be the cause of spoiling you now. Move away from the computer quickly.



Yes, I was spoiled. I've rarely seen such a reaction get so violently widespread on tumbler so that even an accidental viewing with spoil it. Normally I avoid tumblr until after watching Downton, but my head has been off this week and I accidentally ventured to scroll down a bit after it aired (not remembering that it would have just finished).

No warnings. None. Just ranting. And so of course I then had to go into the Downton tag and learn what had happened because I couldn't wait for captions to get up to learn more details.

Oh my fellow Downtonians... handkerchiefs all around.

Sybil was probably the single most universally adored character on the show. I've never met or heard of a person who didn't love Sybil. She was sweet and kind and spunky and independent  She was gorgeous and devoted and so very, very loving. She was an idealist. She would have been a wonderful mother.

I don't know why they chose to kill her off. Well, drama and plot, but... this seems a really huge thing to insert for the sake of story. Seriously. This is worse than Joss Whedon, and that's saying a lot.

Even Thomas cried. Thomas. And I felt bad for Thomas.

I can't believe Robert insisted the way he did. I can't believe he wouldn't listen to Cora. Childbirth is a female arena and was doubly so in those days - he knew nothing about the subject and yet insisted on controlling the situation. His pride wouldn't allow him to utilize an option that could save his daughter.

Although to be honest a Cesarean even now has plenty of risk, so Sybil or her child might still have died. Medicine was changing in these days, and it wasn't until after WWII that most babies were born in hospitals, meaning that medical intervention was still looked at warily by older, traditional physicians like Dr. Phillip whatshisface. Dr. Clarkson may not be a perfect doctor, but he still knows his stuff and demonstrates the wisdom of having a medical professional who knows your situation well and understands your body, so he can notice when something is going wrong.

 You can read more about toxemia here: http://www.helium.com/items/1105505-signs-and-symptoms-of-toxemia (and it is worth knowing about).

Anna and Bates progressed, but honestly their whole storyline should have been moved up an episode. Set in this episode it just distracted from the emotions we were all tied up in.

Still, I'll admit that I cared about Ethel in this episode, which is a big change for me. I didn't mind having her around, especially since they dialed her part back once things got serious with Sybil.

And the bright note - Huzzah for Edith getting a job offer as a columnest! I hate that her family keeps putting her down, although I understand the mindset they're coming from. Thank God she has such an awesome brother in Matthew!

Now we have a whole new set of things to deal with, and Downton is never going to be the same.


Thursday, January 24, 2013

Elenatintil on the Web

I thought some of you might be interested to know that I have a Pinterest account now. I post some things every few days, focusing mainly on interesting clothing, jewelry, art, etc.

Also, if you haven't already heard this over on the sewing blog, I have a facebook page for my costuming and sewing adventures as well. I link all of my sewing diaries over there, as well as additional links to various shows and costumes that I find interesting.

I also have a DeviantArt Account where I post everything from scribble comics, to clothing design, to fully polished pieces of art.

Finally, for those of you who are a bit older, I also have a tumblr. I give this link with a caution - it's nearly impossible to reblog things on there without occasionally reblogging something that has stronger language in it, or pictures that are a bit more adult than what you'd find on this blog. This blog is dedicated to remaining appropriate for anyone 13+ - the way Tumblr functions doesn't allow the same security. However, if that doesn't faze you, you'll enjoy seeing my mini-posts on various shows and movies, plus random comic book stuff, Doctor Who, OUAT, etc.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Film to Watch - Austenland

Shannon Hale's "Austenland" was adapted for the screen as an independant film, which screened this week at the Sundance Film Festival where it was enthusiastically received and scored a distribution deal with Sony Pictures.

For those who don't remember my book review (which I wrote before I became a true Shannon Hale fan), "Austenland" is basically a Jane Austen theme park... wherein guests live according to 18th century norms - clothes, manners, chamber pots and all! And of course, actors are hired to make the experience complete, with a Mr. Darcy look-alike to complete the illusion.

I had mixed feelings about the novel, but I do believe it was made to succeed in cinematic form. Plus there is quite the talented cast bringing the story to life! Anyhow, keep your eyes open for upcoming details!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Downton Abbey 3.4

(Originally published in October, 2012. Due to episodes 1&2 being aired together in the US, this is considered the 3rd episode during the American airing.)

Spoiler Alert!!!

So... what do we think of this episode?

Personally, I felt the Sybil/Branson bit was kind of a let down after last week's hype. It should have been drawn out more. But... it's still intense. Branson's been up to stuff that even Sybil doesn't know about. What does this mean for their marriage? Will they stay at Downton? Will they settle someplace nearby? Or will Tom try to make it back into Ireland and force a court case? Who knows. At any rate, Baby Branson is coming soon. Next week?

Edith! Man, GO EDITH! The fandom has been hoping for awhile that she would turn into a writer and it looks like we're finally getting our wishes! I loved how Violet told her "You're a woman with a mind and ability, stop whining and find something to do!" Harsh, but effective!

Ethel... I thought her storyline was wrapped up last season. Why did they bring her back? What is the point? *sigh* But oh, her baby boy is SO ADORABLE. I just wanted to cuddle him forever.

Poor Daisy. Can the girl just have some happiness for once? Alfred needs to get his head out of the clouds and realize she's sweet on him!

New Footman is too sleezy to really be attractive. Not sure where that's going (other than that Thomas obviously has a thing for him).

Carson and the toaster. HA!

Matthew found out that Downton has been mismanaged... WELL THAT EXPLAINS A LOT. But why is Lord Grantham so reluctant to talk about it?

Bates and Anna - c'mon. Can something happen there? They've barely had a storyline at all. It's getting ridiculous.


OUAT 2.12 - "In the Name of the Brother"

SPOILER ALERT

I'm surprised at the lack of enthusiasim over this episode thus far. Sure it wasn't earth-shattering, but it was a well constructed episode, with great character and some really beautiful dialogue and acting.

Some will say that the pacing was too slow, and that the Dr. Whale exposition should have been placed earlier in the season. But I disagree. I thought it was extremely astute of the show headliners to place it now, during an episode that focuses heavily on parental/children relationships - an ongoing theme this season to be sure, but this was the long anticipated Cora/Regina reunion episode! Why is it so appropriate? Because the main theme of Frankenstein (the book) is the influence parents have on their children, and especially the devastating cost of abandoning one's child (the Monster in the tale stands as Frankenstein's child). Frankenstein's father really was an insensitive man, who drove his son away by his actions. Of course, the monster wasn't his brother, but for the purpose of the show, it worked well. 

Some really heartbreaking Rumbelle moments... I was glad that Belle was healed, although it doesn't bode well that Rumple was so quick to use magic... for their relationship, I mean, given their history. 

However in contrast, we now have a definite lead on Bae's whereabouts. Although... is it just me, or did the blood globe seem to indicate that Bae is in Maine??? And... Cora and Rumple kissing wasn't such a shock to me, as I am certain she was the "Miller's Daughter" in the original tale and that they had a romantic connection.

I like that the show is not afraid to give the characters hard choices. Deciding whether or not to let the stranger die and save Storybrooke was not a place I thought they'd be willing to go... and it looks like there will be a price for making the moral choice.

Cora's reunion with Regina was so frustrating... part of me thinks she is sincere in saying she loves Regina, she has afterall been very steadfast with that line throughout the season. Still, she clearly does not yet understand what it means to really love, selflessly, and that is going to be scary to watch...

Fun glimpse into Regina's secret room. I liked seeing that she had carried her fantastical wardrobe over, as well as the beautiful jeweled apple tree.

I'm also thrilled that they've given Ruby more to do this season. She's a supporting character, but she manages to have good bits or full scenes in every episode. This week of course we got to see her show off superspeed, and then 'monster bonding' with Frankenstein. And who loved how everyone *cough*Emma*cough* reacted to meeting another kind of fictional character?

Looks like there is a lot to look forwards to in the coming weeks, and there seem to be more surprises this season than last... hurrah for that! 


Saturday, January 19, 2013

Attack of the Sour Patch Kids

I guess I've never had Sour Patch Kids before, because I ate a small pack of them yesterday and then my tongue felt like hell. It still feels like it's recovering from a burn, nearly 24 hours later.

I ran a Google search and found out that this is fairly common... and now I feel quite silly for not knowing this. But I've had sour candies before and never experience the tongue burn, so many Sour Patch Kids are super extreme?

Remedies suggested were ice cream, baking soda, milk, etc. Basically things to neutralize the acid. I tried some different ones, but I think I tried them too late and the damage was already done.

Ah well, tongue cells heal quickly, one of the miracles of the human body.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Philippa Gregory and Good Historical Fiction

I recommend a lot of good historical fiction. However, I have some favorites that I don't feel I can write reviews about on this blog, because they contain sex scenes and I wouldn't want to encourage anyone to read that stuff if they're not already up for it.

In this instance, I'm talking specifically about the works of Phillipa Gregory. Although her earlier works ("Other Boleyn Girl" I'm looking at you) have some definite research flaws, her historical accuracy really is improving with each book. In fact, she recently wrote a non-fiction book on the women of the Wars of the Roses.

But that's besides the point because even when she gets the facts sort of kind of wrong, she still has a gift for getting the characters right. And that's what Historical Fiction does best - characters. Non-Fiction is about the facts, about different suppositions, about remaining as unbiased as possible. Historical Fiction gets to say, okay, I see your facts, I see your suppositions, how would they work in a narrative? If I string them all together, do they make a plausible person? A person we can believe in?

I just finished rereading Gregory's "The Boleyn Inheritance" which I think may be her finest work. Certainly she takes three women whom history usually passes by or only bothers to understand one dimension of, and makes them into living, breathing people. Anna of Cleves, Kathryn Howard, and Jane Rochford. Each women tells her chapter in her own voice, first person present. Normally this would be very hard to pull off, and yet Gregory does it with perfection. Each woman is so distinct, her voice so clearly her, that you almost don't need the chapter headings to identify the current narrator. It is very, very rare that any book has even one character so clearly developed, much less three, and far, far less in historical fiction.

The best part? It's believable  I speak as a long-time Tudor Enthusiast, and when I read the voices of these women, their words match up with the facts and pictures I have of them from other sources. And I like them. Okay, I don't like Jane Rochford, but I can stand to read in her voice, and that's saying a lot for one of the most despicable women to come out of that court. I also find Kitty Howard endearing, which again, is a challenge when our clearest picture of her is of a very stupid young woman. And yet we understand her. She isn't smart, but she has her own way of seeing the world and it is entertaining to read until it goes so horribly wrong.

Okay, this has turned into a review. Let me say again. I'm not telling you to go read this unless you're already okay with sex scenes. BUT, if you are, if history interests you, and if you are interested in a finely crafted historical novel (despite the sex scenes, which actually are all of vital historical importance so they're not nearly as gratuitous as they'd be in another setting), by all means, this is one to head the list.

Monday, January 14, 2013

OUAT 2.11 - "The Outsider"

My apologies for once again being a day late with this review... I had a commitment as soon as the show ended and couldn't get it up last evening. However I took notes while watching, so all of my initial reactions were at my finger-tips to edit this into a coherant review!

SPOILER WARNING

First of all, a question for you. Who is the titular "Outsider"? Is it Hook? Is it Belle? I think cases could be made for either.

Overall this is, imho, one of the strongest written episodes of the season thus far. It had a lot of beautiful moments, poignant dialogue, and character growth, and yet the episode didn't seem too busy, at least to me.

We got to see the really dark side of Hook in this episode without Cora to overshadow him, and it was downright frightening. But more on that in the end.

I really, really loved getting to see more on Belle in this episode. Emilie de Ravin is a fantastic episode and there was a lot for her to do here, from her confrontation with Hook, to her exhortions to Rumple. Still, the best part was getting to see Belle's intellectual side shine, not just knowing what books say, but showing that she can put the dots together and act on the facts. It was brilliant to see a heroine win the day not by brawn, but by her brain. I hope we get to see her carry this out further over the course of the season.

Also fantastic were the several nods to the Disney movie, with the teasing of her book reading and the subsequent tossing of the book into the mud being the most obvious. (Some awesome gif sets setting up the parallels are on tumblr). Another parallel that made me squeal was Mulan's reference to "something worth fighting for."

Speaking of which, it was delightful to see a younger, more innocent Mulan appearing to befriend and assist Belle. Plus the introduction of Phillip. Exactly what I wish we'd gotten about six episodes earlier!

I also appreciated that they finally recognized the danger posed by the modern world around them, and the fact that some (or all?) of them would like to get back to the Enchanted Forest. Surprisingly, (or not so much?) Snow isn't at all keen on this, and we get an outright fight between her and David. But, ah well, we've gotten so many sweet scenes between them that it was high time they had a little fuss.

Just about no Regina in this episode, but instead we were able to focus on Henry's side of the dilemma, which was good. Also bringing Pongo over to be Henry's dog. I think that was a great choice. I wonder if they will ever talk about Pongo's history, or if it's just going to continue to be a subtle tribute?

It's really almost a shame that all of these fantastic elements were overshadowed by the insanely intense ending. I certainly understand why they wrote it in, but oh man, talk about fan torture! Especially for those of us on the Rumbelle ship. Oy vey!

What do you think will be happening next? Who is the mysterious stranger in the car? What was the importance of that Pennsylvanian license plate?

Next week we get Frankenstein and more Cora...





Downton Abbey 3.3.

(Downton Abbey's third episode was broadcasted as the second in America, due to the first and second episodes being combined. This review was originally posted September 2012.)

AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH

Opps. Spoiler warning.

AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH

I know everyone was theorizing that something bad was going to happen at Edith's wedding, but I honestly did not think that Strallen would LEAVE HER AT THE ALTER. SERIOUSLY DUDE?

You don't do that. You don't even get within a week of the wedding and not call it off. (My family's been through that this year, it's incredibly hard, so my gut is just punched over this, too close to home.)

I used to like Strallen. I think he and Edith would be happy. And it just kills me that Edith had that torn away from her at the last possible second.

So that was the bad. Um...

Mary and Matthew were great in this episode though. I love that Mary read the letter anyhow. I did suspect that she'd written it, but I'm glad Matthew didn't, not for an instant. and when Daisy collaborated the story... oh it was almost too easy, but still, it was beautiful. Downton is saved!

Not enough Sybil and Branson, but looks like we'll get tons of them next week!

Every week I think it's not possible to hate Thomas more, and every week he proves me wrong. How can he be so malicious? O'Brian generally cared about him, and he couldn't stand her caring about her nephew as well. So fed up with him.

But aren't Carson and Mrs. Hughes the most adorable thing ever? I know the showrunners have said that no romance was intended between them, but the fans have shipped it so hard, and now in this episode I think we have a hint that Carson may have some unacknowledged romantic feelings towards Mrs. Hughes.

Poor Edith. That was just brutal.

Friday, January 11, 2013

The Not-So-Secret Confessions of a Homeschooler



I came across this graphic on Facebook, and when I started to write out my status in sharing it, I realized that I actually had quite a lot to say on the subject, and it would be more appropriately presented as a blog post.

Homeschooling isn't for all families - there are many reasons why other education options may be better for them. Still, I have to say, this one has a lot in it's favor. My family decided to homeschool after I lost my hearing, for which I am incredibly grateful. We all did very well academically, and please don't even mention social issues... we never lacked friends (okay, other than me during my awkward 11-13 period), and consistently impressed adults with our maturity. My sister is currently living on campus at a local college, doing dual highschool/college credits. My brother, just 21, is a residence hall director and working on his Master's degree. (I won't talk about me, but I think bragging on my siblings is okay... right?)

Sure, there are some rare homeschooled families that hit the other side of this, but honestly, state oversight is so thorough that it's hard for families not to get caught if they're not actually trying to educate and raise their homeschooled kids properly. In my state, we had to take tests every year (as opposed to the every other year mandated for our public school counterparts) and we are one of the looser regulated states. (My cousins in Pennsylvania have a pretty unfair level of reporting they have to do, since that is one of the strictest states).

For those who say "my mom and I don't  get along - she could never teach me!" Well... my mom and I had just as many (and probably more) problems than any mother and daughter, but that never interfered with my schooling - it just motivated me to become more independent with my academics! My mom was educated as a nurse - not a teacher. She was a fantastic homeschooling mother because of her love and dedication, not because of any degree. Her secret? She read to us for at least an hour every day. Of course when we were in elementary and middle school she spent more time working on math, science, spelling, etc, with us, but that's not a fearsome job - I did it with two different families when I was just 20.

There are so many more resources for homeschoolers today then there were even ten years ago. Many cities have homeschool centers that offer specialized classes or "tutor sessions" for the high school subjects that parents don't feel confident overseeing, such as the sciences, math, foreign language, and writing. There are also many homeschool sport leagues, bands and drama groups, plus laws are changing to allow homeschoolers to participate in extra-curricular activities at their local public schools.

I could go on and on, but I'm afraid I'll start sounding rather pompous on this soapbox... feel free to ask any questions if there's an aspect of homeschooling you've always wondered about.

The most important thing I hope comes across here is that I'm adamantly in support of a family's right to choose how to educate their children, and homeschooling should not be seen as a 'scary' option, even if it ends up not being the right one for your family. (Yes, I very much hope to homeschool my own future children, but I'm aware that there might be a scenario where they would need some other form of education for a time, and if so, we'll make it work).

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

No Silmarillion in Theaters?

There's been an article making the rounds on Facebook, exploring Christopher Tolkien's decision not to allow further licensing of his father's creative property. It's an interesting position - I knew there had been issues, but I hadn't heard that he had completely decided to forswear any future opportunities.

Read the Full Article here.

First of all, I want to be clear that I'm not going to bash Christopher Tolkien. He has done a phenomenal job of managing his father's estate, and has made so much material available to us. Truly he has been a good steward and deserves immeasurable commendation for that.

I also think it's telling that he was so dissatisfied with the films that he's putting a stopper on any other material being transferred to screen. Tolkien purists have had issues with the movies for years - which honestly I have always felt were rather harsh, since any adaptation needs to take liberties when translating to film.

Still, let's be honest. There are some really important thematic elements that did not make the transition well at all - the corrupting of Faramir is, I think, the most important, with the elimination of "The Scouring of the Shire" and the subtle altering of the situation at "Helm's Deep" also standing as major problematic changes. I've not yet seen "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" so I honestly can't comment on that, although most of the strong fans I've heard from have been pleased with it.

Whatever. Seriously. We're past the age of 'one film for all time.' Remakes happen as the technology changes, and I have no doubt that someday we'll see another version of LOTR hit the big screen. Those rights are still out there.

The truth is, no film is ever going to be perfect. Purists of any franchise are always going to be dissatisfied with something. I think LOTR did better than we could have hoped, given the film industry of the time. What Jackson pulled off was just short of a miracle and he also deserves commendation for his efforts. That he missed the point on some crucial elements is lamentable, but considering the scope of the book and the amount that he did get right, still sets him above much of the film industry. It was also a major achievement for the country of New Zealand, and I think that alone makes the films worth doing. And yes, the Hobbit as well.

All this is to say, if Christopher Tolkien wasn't happy with Jackson's work, then no, he likely wouldn't be satisfied with anyone else's, whether it's a future adaptation of the licensed properties, or the hoped for but now demolished dream of "The Silmarillion" or "The Unfinished Tales" coming to the screen. So therefore his decision is probably the right one, and I can't blame him for making it, especially as he is in his 80's and can't get involved in a production at the hands-on level that Douglas Gresham (C.S. Lewis's step-son and literary executor) did for the Narnia movies.

I'm not certain, however, that we'll never, ever see any of the other properties retold for film. The estate will come under new management at some point, and I think eventually we'll see a younger executor partner with a film company (or perhaps in a TV series format) to adapt the other stories. It may not be for fifty years, but I do think it will eventually happen. At some point, at least, all the rights are going to relapse and then it'll be fair game. Although with a property as lucrative and precious as LOTR, I'm sure it will be tied up as tightly as it can for the time being.


Monday, January 7, 2013

Once Upon a Time 2.10 - "The Cricket Game"

Here there be spoilers! But if you haven't seen the episode yet, you can watch it either at ABC.com or hulu.com, so no excuses!

I'll admit, I missed the first minute or so because I was caught up in a skype conversation. However, I caught the gist of the sequence in a tumblr gif set, which clearly pointed out the parallel's between Hook's opening and Captain Jack's from "The Pirates of the Caribbean." Clever. Only Captain Hook isn't Jack, he's a fairy murdering--- ah, you're all tired of that rant by now, I'm sure.

Anyhow, I loved the entire opening. Cora, the disappearing ship, Snow+Charming = oblivious Henry and traumatized Emma... cute stuff.

But really, the strongest part of the episode was the party sequence, where we see Regina genuinely trying to fit in. No one really trusts her, but for Henry's sake they're trying... and c'mon, the woman is a fabulous cook. The scene between her and Emma was very telling, showing clearly how both women have grown more mature and are genuinely trying to be the women they need to in order to give Henry the right kind of parents.

Unfortunately for Regina, she's still saddled with an overly-controlling mother who will literally stop at nothing to stay in charge of her daughter's life. We thought Regina was bad last season? She's nothing compared to Cora now. And OUAT has once more killed off a cute bachelor. OR HAVE THEY? Turns out, Archie's not dead, but someone else is. Not any of the principles, apparently, since they all appeared after discovering the 'body', but do we seriously think it's no one important at all? (if it is, OUAT really dropped the ball.)

One of my favorite bits of the episode was the interaction with Pongo. I'm a long time fan of "101 Dalmations" (the book!) and love that they have subtly worked Pongo into the show. In this episode they used him quite cleverly, tying in Ruby's wolf powers, and extracting Pongo's memory of the scene with Rumple's dreamcatcher. (Correct me if I'm wrong, but this is the first instance of a Native American story/myth coming into the show, right?)

Seriously, Regina's acting was phenomenal this episode, between crying, threatening, and her complete shock at Archie's death, there wasn't a sour line in the whole thing. I love that Emma was able to tell that Regina was telling the truth, although I hope at some point we learn more about why Emma has this "superpower." Is it knowledge of people and body language (aka "Lie to Me") or something to do with her inner magic?

Also, random aside. What did Rumple mean by his "sheepdog" reference? Am I missing something, or is there another story here we'll be seeing eventually?

On the Fairy Tale Flashback end of things, we also got some really interesting stuff. Once again, fantastic acting by Regina as a truly evil woman... and she looked fabulously tragic in her execution costume. Also, another appearance from Regina's father, whom I sincerely hope we get more backstory on at some point.

Anyhow, I like how OUAT deals with the idea of the death penalty in this episode, and especially how Snow pleads for Regina. We've seen so much of kick-ass Snow, it's nice to see the sweet, kind side of her that we generally associate with the character.

Also, it was nice work setting up why Regina wanted a curse to take them to another land. We already knew Rumple's motive in needing such a complicated scenario... great to know Regina had one too.

Random observation... Snow and Charming are married by this point, but they're obviously keeping that a secret, referring to each other as 'fiance.' Why is this? What's the big deal about keeping it a secret? I hope they elaborate...

Anyone else catch Rumple's "Twoo Love" Princess Bride reference?

Overall I thought this was a pretty solid episode, and I'm glad that the show is starting to cover some new territory. Can't wait for next week - looks like it could be fairly traumatizing for us Rumbelle shippers!




Sunday, January 6, 2013

Downton Abbey 3.2

(Originally published in September 2012. Although it is the second episode of the season, it was shown at the same time as the first episode for the American debut.)

SPOILER ALERTTTTT

...

...

Ahem.

I love Mary and Matthew. I mean I just adore them. So much. And I don't think that's going to change because they're married - it will still be a dynamic and engaging pairing. I love how even with this money drama Matthew still makes a point to tell Mary that he loves her.

Last week I didn't believe for a moment that they would lose Downton. But now? After this episode? The whole "changing world" thing seems to be pretty real and final. As in, Downton could actually go. Except if it goes, then there's no show called "Downton Abbey" so what happens? I'm perplexed. I do love how Cora is handling it, although I'm feeling really sorry for Mary. She's worked so hard for this and now it's being taken away.

Mrs. Hugh's cancer storyline would have been more moving if it hadn't just been revealed to be a big storyline on another show I watch. I'm curious to see how it plays out in a historical context though.

No Sybil and Branson! :( How often are we going to get to see them this season? They weren't in the promos for next week. But we know they'll be back and we'll get to see the baby.

Edith and Strallen... I don't know. On the one hand they are so adorable, on the other part of me wonders if Editih is just settling... and yet I know she's not. She does really care for him, but I think she is also desperate to be loved and adored and he is the one person in her life who will give her that. I don't know if that's good or bad at this point. But they're engaged, so...

Not so much a review this week as thoughts. Downton is special because even though it's a show with multiple seasons, it also functions like a miniseries in that it is really about the ongoing story and not one episode plots.

Downton Abbey Season 3 Premiere

(originally posted in September, 2012)

Issuing the required SPOILER WARNING...

DOWNTON IS BAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAACCCCCK

Who else wanted to cheer when the camera rounded the bend and we saw our beautiful old estate in all its glory? Of course, the episode started on a rather more abrupt and personal note - in the church, at the rehearsal for Matthew and Mary's wedding. This was a bit jarring for me, but then, Downton has always plunged right into the story from minute one of nearly every episode. Once you start watching, you can't pull yourself away, which is one reason why I think it has continued to be so successful.

So we're promised early on that the wedding is seriously on this time, and we'll hopefully get to see it by the end of the episode. Hopefully. I mean, this is Mary and Matthew we're talking about so anything could happen...

Anna faithfully visits Bates in jail, although little happens other than Anna finding a possible lead for proving him innocent. I did however appreciate the scene in which Bates encouraged Anna to go with Mary as her maid on the honeymoon and "live for both of us."

Thomas is just as much a jerk as ever (and here I was softening towards him in season 2!). After all that O'Brian has done to support him, he couldn't spare a minute of his concern to help out her poor nephew. Grrrr.

Edith, remember how much I disliked Edith at the beginning of last season? And now I'm delighted to see her, delighted she has a second chance with Sir Anthony, delighted that she seems so happy.

And Sybil is just radiant - as we get to see on screen thanks to Grandmama Violet arranging for her and Tom to attend the wedding. Tom of course is bound and determined to stand his ground, but Matthew talks sense into him, asks him to be his best man (who else loved that?) and when things looked bleak for the wedding, it was Tom who saved the day. Go Tom!

Mary and Matthew are always going to argue over things. We know that. Matthew finally knows it. Mary probably will have to take more time to learn the lesson. Of course their argument isn't such a petty one, because it relates to a very real danger to Downton.

Oh Lord Grantham. What is going to happen to him if he loses Downton? We know everyone else will be all right (although, no show! So it must be saved!), but Grantham would have a complete breakdown and become utterly depressed and... oh I couldn't bear it.

On the upside, Grandmama Violet is in high form, with a perfect and equal verbal sparring partner in the form of Cora's mother, recently arrived from America.

It wasn't an explosive or shocking episode, but it was a very good one, showing us everything we love about Downton before the sky (inevitably) turns black.

(Episodes 1 and 2 were combined for the American broadcast, read my original review for episode 2 here)

Friday, January 4, 2013

Intro to Classic X-Men

"I want to start reading the X-Men comic books... where do I start?"

This is a question I hear a lot, addressed either to myself or others. It's kind of an involved answer, so I figured it was about time I wrote up a comprehensive blog post on the subject.

Obviously I am one fan, and this is going to be a biased post, but I think it'll be pretty comprehensive so hopefully fans of differing opinions won't be too upset with me. ;)

First of all, if you want to jump into a current story without wading through all the history of the X-Men, I would recommend you to catch up on the "Wolverine and the X-Men" comic book. It came out last year and has been extremely well written. At this point you would have a manageable amount of catching up to do, and then you'd be caught up with everyone else. All you have to know going in is that Wolverine and Cyclops had a big fight, the X-Men split up over it, and Wolverine 'got custody' of half the kids and started a school. Yep. Wolverine is headmaster. Check it out.

If you want to really dive in and read everything, but don't know where to begin... here's a suggested road map.

#0. Forget everything from the Fox movies. Except Professor X. Very little of it is comic canon, and although a few of them were good 'movies' they are horribly misleading about the X-Men in general.

#1. Watch "Wolverine and the X-Men" - the TV show. It has nothing to do with the comic book by the same name, nor does it follow any comic book title, but it does a wonderful job of showing the characters, themes and pivotal storylines that have populated the X-Men side of the Marvel universe for the past fifty years. It's either that, or do a heck of a lot of Wikipedia reading. (For that matter, I recommend Comicvine instead, as it's kept up to date and contains more information).

#2. Read "X-Men: First Class." It has nothing to do with the movie (which was excellent, but inaccurate) and everything to do with the canon first class - Cyclops, Jean Grey, Beast, Angel and Iceman. Why not start with the very first comic? Because honestly those early comics get boring fast. Comics were written differently in those days, and X-Men was an example of the not so great side (it didn't really take off until Clairmont's run). In fact, for a time it was actually canceled. While I will recommend some old school stories (see #3!), do yourself a favor and start with First Class, which tells the stories that took place between the original issues, but has sharper writing and the benefit of modern art and printing technology.

#3. Read "Giant-Size X-Men #1". This tells the story of how iconic favorites like Wolverine, Storm and Nightcrawler joined the team, and their very first adventure with the original five (plus two of my favorites, Havok and Polaris!). It's an important story in that it strongly shaped the future of the X-Men, and ties into many future stories (such as Deadly Genesis, which we'll get to later.)

#4. Get your hands on Uncanny X-Men #129 and the ensuing story arc. Not only does this introduce you to Kitty Pryde (who is one of the most awesome X-Men ever), but it also gives you a good look at the origins of Emma Frost and the Hellfire Club.

#5. Read "The Dark Phoenix Saga." This is sold in a single volume trade edition, or you can track down issues #129-#138 of "The X-Men" (not to be confused with the "Uncanny X-Men" issues of the same numbers I referenced in the previous step. Complicated, huh?). This is Jean Grey's story, and remains one of the most iconic X-Men stories ever. Even if you skip everything previous to this, you really don't want to miss this one!

#6. Read "Wolverine: First Class." After the Phoenix Saga you'll be ready for something more light-hearted, and this follow up to "X-Men: First Class" is one of the funniest pieces I've ever read. It's also got tons of Wolverine and Kitty.

#6.5. Speaking of which... if you liked that duo, you might want to read their original pairing, in the miniseries "Kitty Pryde and Wolverine." It involves ninjas and samurai and lots of swordfighting.

#7. This isn't a vital story, but "The Days of Future Past" is worth reading, especially as it is going to be the basis of the next First Class series. Might as well know the source before Fox messes up again... right? Also, more Kitty!

After that, it gets complicated. You could literally continue on after Kitty's entrance or the Dark Phoenix Saga and read both titles to their conclusions. Which is hundreds of issues, and although there are some really good stories, there are also some really confusing ones, so if you want to catch up to the current state of comic affairs, you can, at this point, skip ahead to my next batch of suggestions (Intro to Modern X-Men, coming soon!). Or read both side by side.

At this point, you do have a solid knowledge of the important facts of Classic X-Men, so you can skip around, find out when your favorite characters have important arcs or introductions by checking the Wiki information. For instance, Rogue first appeared in the "Avengers Annual #10" and Gambit debuted in "Uncanny X-Men Annual #14." Kitty meets her dragon/alien Lockheed during the first Brood story (Uncanny X-Men #155). A vital growth period for Storm was her change in appearance and depowering, a story which starts during Uncanny X-Men #173.

However...
There is one story that covers a lot of titles and issues that I can't just give you a handy reference to. It's an important story that you really should have some knowledge of, so I'm going to give you a quick summery here. (If you plan to read all of Classic X-Men yourself, then skip this so you don't get spoiled!)

After Jean dies (for the first time, see "Dark Phoenix Saga"), Scott grieves, then finds new love with Madelyn Pryor, who looks suspiciously like Jean. They have a son, Nathan, but when Jean's resurrection is revealed, Scott leaves Madelyn and Nathan for Jean. (Ouch.) Nathan is kidnapped by Mr. Sinister (who, as you know from "Wolverine and the X-Men" has a serious obsession with Scott and Jean), and Madelyn goes incognito with 8 other X-Men to live secretly in Australia and save the world without anyone knowing. (That's a fun arc, and introduces Jubilee. I highly recommend it, actually, but you don't have to read it to continue on to Modern X-Men.)

Anyhow, the 9 Aussie X-Men come back to the US, and Maddy finds out that she's actually a clone of Jean, created by Mr. Sinister. She kind of goes crazy and evil and has to be destroyed. Baby Nathan is recovered, however, but he is stricken with a virus that can only be treated in the future.

Scott and Jean get married and take Nathan into the future, where they spend nine years raising him before returning to the present day. Nathan stays there, until eventually he returns as a full-grown (white-haired!) man named Cable.

Oh, yeah, Scott and Jean have other kids from the future that show up, but Rachel is the only one you need to worry about. Rachel's cool. We'll get to her in the next post.

Anyhow, Madelyn+Scott=Nathan/Cable. Keep that in mind.



Thursday, January 3, 2013

Here, have some random LEGOs

This summer I learned that Legos are not just for kids. I also came home from my east coast adventures with a suitcase full of little plastic bricks... but work has been so insane that I haven't managed to do much with them since setting up the sets.

Since I'm recovering from the flu and tired of drawing and watching Netflix, I decided to pull out the two sets I hadn't completed yet and finish them. I also created something new...


So, yeah, my level of the house includes the fireplace with the mantel. I've had my Legos up since September and my parental units have not uttered a word of protest. I'm impressed. Maybe they secretly accept the coolness? (It also makes a perfect conversation piece any time someone comes over with a kid. Or, well, not a kid, but someone who loves Legos... Seriously. I walked up to breakfast one day and was ordered to show a friend my Legos immediately. They're popular.)


Matt and I split the now-out-of-print Gringrott's set. I also got the (also now-out-of-print) Hagrid/Fire Tree set, which includes Narcissa Malfoy, probably one of the most obscure female characters ever to become a Lego.


The Trio faces off against the Malfoys! And a Snake!


I've also got a PotC set-up...


Here's the medieval village (another surprise gift from Matt), with a Scottish Bagpiper who is probably the coolest minifig so far, and Little Red Riding Hood.


More medieval, including Braveheart and Viking Opera lady.


Marvel's set-up! It's woefully small... Quick, Lego! Make some more X-Men!


So once you're done being distracted by the shiny gold, take a look at the black and red house in Singapore. Er, the background. That's not a set, that's a piece I created from my meger supply of left-over pieces. It turned out pretty cool, considering I didn't have a set design when I went in.

So... yes. Random Legos. And now I need a bigger mantel...