September 11, 2001: I was nine years old going on ten and in the fourth grade. I attended a small country school in a small country town in Texas. My first brother had just started kindergarten. My two younger brothers were in diapers. My dad had an actual job. My mom was working part-time as a nurse while parenting.
In August we had just adopted three little kittens, a gray tabby and two calicos. I was in the middle of my ancient Egypt phase, so I named them Rameses, Bastet, and Ankes-pen-amun (we just called her Sam). Bastet was my special favorite and I considered her MY kitten.
The night before, September tenth, I got into a fight with my first brother. My dad had made us a set of cardboard walls out of giant boxes, and my siblings and I were jealous about our individual time with them for playing make-believe or building forts and such. That Monday night, my brother and I quarreled so badly that we were on the floor beating each other. I don’t remember the details of the fight beyond that but it was aggressive.
The next day I wondered if the catastrophe was some kind of cosmic consequence of fighting with my brother. Well, both were generated by the evil that has existed in this world since the beginning, so kinda.
Welcome to my fourth annual “Shark Week” post! These last two months have been kind of weird. I was on vacation during actual Shark Week, and for the rest of July and most of August you could say I was indisposed. But, nothing wrong with that.
This Year In Sharks
Speaking of actual Shark Week, for that part of my vacation I was at my grandma’s house in Utah. I got to watch a couple hours of Shark Week programs on Discovery Channel.
I was not impressed.
Maybe my perspective on sharks has ruined me for mainstream shark content, but from an objective standpoint Discovery and NatGeo continuing to depict sharks as hungry monsters is unethical.
However, changing the image of sharks is not totally in the hands of the mainstream media. Last summer I started a shark-themed sideblog on Tumblr @wholesome-sharks. So far it only has about 40 followers, but it has managed to reach people who fancy sharks and a couple of my posts got a hundred or so hits, so I would call it a modest success.
I like to do themed photos for the header and icon for different times of year, such as Halloween and Christmas and so on. I have about decided, however, to use photos of my plush sharks for the icons from now on. Whenever I get the chance I post my own visual or digital shark art, which I intended the platform for. I also review shark documentaries as I watch them and share videos. My other goal with the site is to point other shark aficionados in the direction of good content.
In November, I started a craft project that has really made a splash. I had seen similar items on Pinterest and been wanting to try making my own. One day I took a piece of felt, cut out a couple of shark shapes, and sewed them together by hand. Then I tried to thread some yarn around the edges (really difficult). My mom saw what I was doing and she showed me how to do a blanket stitch with embroidery thread. Much better.
The easy part was branching out into hammerheads. Two-color sharks such as great whites? A little more labor-intensive. Eyes? I settled on making a small eye shape out of different-colored felt and stitching it to the main felt. The real breakthrough was when I figured out the fins: instead of embroidering them all the way around, I attach them to the main body of the shark on the top side of the fin with a regular thread.
Walt Disney Studios would like people to forget its films from the early 2000s. But what Disney and the so-called film critics failed to take into account was that the kids who were in the prime of their childhoods at that time and grew up watching Treasure Planet, Brother Bear, and so on, wouldn’t stay kids forever. We kids would grow up with those movies influencing us, and then they would use technology to voice our admiration for those films.
The truth of the matter is that a good Disney film doesn’t have to be a musical or a fairy tale or both to be treasured by millions of adoring fans. Case in point, June fifteenth marked the twentieth anniversary of Atlantis: The Lost Empire. I’m prepared to bet I wasn’t the only person who remembered that date.
I was still at that phase that the stuff of my daydreams were made of the latest movie to come out or the newest television show I was watching. I was nine years old when I first saw the trailer attached to the movie Dinosaur, and I was probably obsessed with Atlantis from that moment forward. I had the date June 15th, 2001 burned in my brain as the date the film would be in theaters, the weekend my family was going to take me to see it. The Sunday before, ABC aired a documentary that was partly meant to promote the film which also explored some of the real history behind the legend of Atlantis. I also remember the McDonalds toys and a little booklet of the Atlantean alphabet that I used for coming up with secret messages.
We went to the movies on Saturday the 16th, we rented it on VHS in the years that followed and then I think we got our own copy as a Christmas present a year or so later.
The thing about Atlantis and the Disney films that came out around the same time is that they are from a period in Disney animation history called the Experimental era. A couple of films from this period, Lilo and Stich and The Emperor’s New Groove, are from what I can tell unquestionably loved among my peers (or if you don’t like them you really do have a stick up your butt).
Atlantis and Treasure Planet…the appreciation here is more low-key, but it’s there. It’s palpable. I’ve heard it said that those films didn’t do so well because they were targeted to adolescent boys. That’s probably true, but here’s the thing: I don’t need to be a man to relate to anything a man is going through. You can’t tell me–or anyone for that matter–that they might enjoy a piece of media because the main character is from their demographic. But to be fair, Atlantis in particular has not one but three great female supporting characters that were not down for taking crap from men. I’ve always like that sort of female protagonist.
What was there in this movie for a kid like me to not love? The whole magic and fantasy of the Crystal influenced my own fantasies for years to come. I was also at that age where I liked rude humor and sassy characters. As a teenager, I started to collect books full of movie quotes, and several one-liners from Atlantis made the cut. Atlantis was just really cool.
I rewatched the film for the anniversary, and it turns out that I still love this movie a lot.
Thanks to my parents’ subscriptions to several viewing platforms, including DisneyPlus, I now have access to TV shows that I have spent years missing out on.
Rewind to late March/early April. To keep myself sane between episodes of Falcon and Winter Soldier, I decided to watch the series Rapunzel’s Tangled Adventure.
Disney’s Tangled came out just when I was starting college. I have always enjoyed the music. The film itself, however, seems less interesting than Disney’s later films of this past decade, especially Frozen and Moana. Disney Rapunzel herself just comes off as a really bland character, always about sunshine and optimism.
Thanks to Tumblr I already knew about…15% of the spoilers for the Tangled animated TV series, including some details of Cassandra’s arc, and I once ran into someone cosplaying the Hurt Incantation version of Rapunzel at a convention. The series was not a high priority for me to watch, in fact it wasn’t even on my radar. But I was reminded of its existence while browsing social media one day and I was like, you know what, let’s do this.
What I wasn’t prepared for was the great experience that watching this series is: fun and occasionally breathtaking new songs, the Lorbs (^_^), the gorgeous animation, wonderful characters, and the spectacular storytelling. The series took the story of the movie and turned it into an epic swords-and-sorcerers fantasy and I loved it!
(Housekeeping note: I know I haven’t written a lot of other posts yet this year. Things are coming, I promise. Also, idk what’s up with WordPress but they’re not letting me hyperlink things. If you want to look up the scriptures I cite in this post, go to scriptures.churchofjesuschrist.org and you will be able to access the Bible, the Book of Mormon, and the other standard works of the Church.)
This blog post is directed mainly to members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. However, if you are a non-member who comes across this post I hope this will make some kind of sense and that you can get something out of it. I will supplement my discussion with material from the Bible.
I draw this spiritual thought from The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ. For those who have never heard of this book, this is one of the sacred texts or standard works of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. (Yes, it was the inspiration-ish for a lewd Broadway musical, thank you Hamilton for taking over). The book is a religious history of ancient peoples in the Americas who believed in Jesus Christ–the same Jesus of the New Testament–and how their acceptance or rejection of Him affected their society.
As a practicing Latter-day Saint, I frequently read from The Book of Mormon to keep myself familiar with the text which, according to my belief, outlines what God expects from me.
The second to last chapter in the Book of Mormon is a letter from the prophet Mormon, who compiled much of the book, to his son Moroni. The majority of the epistle is an account of the wickedness among their people, the Nephites, and their enemies, the Lamanites. Both peoples are wicked and indulge in abominable behavior including, but not limited to, fornication, cannibalism, and murder. Mormon is sure that the total destruction of the Nephites as a people is at hand, as a consequence of their rebellion against God.
But in the final verses of the letter, Mormon offers Moroni a few words of spiritual comfort and encouragement, among which is this:
“My son, be faithful in Christ; and may not the things which I have written grieve thee, to weigh thee down unto death; but may Christ lift thee up, and may his sufferings and death, and the showing his body unto our fathers, and his mercy and long-suffering, and the hope of his glory and of eternal life, rest in your mind forever.”
Once when I was reading from those final chapters I came across the verse quoted above, and the phrase “the showing his body unto our fathers” stuck out to me. I was confused. It doesn’t sound like a phrase that gets used in my church.
As far as blogging goes, for the year of 2021 you should expect lots of reviews and lots of anniversary posts. After last year’s lurch, Hollywood is regaining its stride. My local movie theater, as you know, is already reopened for guests. Last Saturday I went to see Raya and the Last Dragon with my brother and two of his friends. We had to wear our masks in the theater lobby and alternate rows of the theater were taped off–reasonable, if you ask me.
Is Raya and the Last Dragon worth putting up with these inconveniences? Yes.
The thing is, when I heard the film’s announcement from the last D23 expo, I was under the impression that the film would be set in China, as per Disney’s policy of pandering to the Chinese Communist Party Chinese But no, Raya is set in Southeast Asia and it is a beautiful, colorful celebration of the cultures in that part of the world.
When the first teaser came out, teasing young Raya training to be a guardian of the Dragon Gem, I was intrigued. The trailers that followed, however, got me absolutely stoked.
It’s a pity that I watched and re-watched the trailers so much because I feel like that took away the hype of seeing the film the way through for the first time. Yet in spite of this, the movie was still a joy to watch. It’s an emotional roller coaster that gets dark and forbidding at times but never terribly so. It feels very much like a classic Disney movie. It’s neither a musical nor a romance, but it still pulls off a blend of zany characters, dazzling magic, and heartwarming storytelling.
This review is with spoilers, so don’t read past this point if you haven’t seen it yet.
Water. Earth. Fire. Air. Long ago, the four nations lived in peace. Then everything changed when the Fire Nation decided to try out colonialism. People aren’t kidding when they say Avatar: The Last Airbender plays with some very heavy themes.
Anyway, yes, I have finally seen ATLA. Rejoice!
I decided earlier in 2020 that I would watch ATLA if the pandemic didn’t let up. Before then, well, all my friends had seen it and even my family had watched it without me while I was away at college. But it still took some convincing for me to want to watch it.
The funny thing is, Avatar:The Last Airbender is so popular that I knew about 15% of the spoilers by indirect exposure….not to mention being a captive audience for the movie once when on a road trip with my family. (Sigh) that was a long night.
(IDK why my family bought the flop movie, don’t get mad at me.)
When I was at college I took a creative writing class during spring term my sophomore year. We studied haiku during our poetry unit. One day during break someone pulled up “The Tale of Sokka” from “Tales from Ba Sing Se” on YouTube because haiku. (Now that I know the context for that I feel bad for Zuko in that incident).
Then in my senior year I took a Literature of the American West class (one of my favorite classes, actually). For their term paper one of my classmates did an analysis of how “Zuko Alone” and “The Chase” drew from classic westerns.
And then there’s also the fact that ATLA spoilers are frequently discussed on Tumblr, particularly Zuko’s arc in comparison to other well- or poorly-made “redemption” arcs.
My tipping point? Overly Sarcastic Productions. Red frequently references Avatar: The Last Airbender in her “Trope Talks” videos–because obviously the show does the tropes so well.
Funny story: last year ATLA was released on Netflix. I personally do not have Netflix, but it’s interesting that ATLA is having a little revival just when I’m getting into it for the first time.
I watched the series on a sort-of bootleg site. Thank goodness my pop-up blockers worked. Once in a while the video would crash, but I was cool with that because I would hit refresh and look at memes while it loaded. I started the day before Thanksgiving, and I finished a few days before Christmas. I posted updates of my viewing journey on my Facebook, and there was excellent feedback.
Avatar:The Last Airbender really deserves all the accolades from its fans. The storytelling is top-notch. The worldbuilding is complex and absorbing. The character development is truly exceptional. The characters themselves are memorable and wonderful and their chemistry together is astonishingly potent. Team Avatar–or, as the fandom calls them, the Gaang–is a squad that meets all the squad goals.
And the humor spliced in is just outrageous. While most of the animation is serious and sort-of realistic, for comic relief the artists don’t shy away from cartoonish exaggeration.
Most importantly, I love how the show took the audience on the journey with the characters in a physical and a character-building sense. This blog post is about how I reacted to the series and what things I specifically liked about it. I probably don’t have anything earth-shattering-level unique to say about the show but I’m putting my thoughts out there anyways.
For those of you who are wondering, my mom lived through the actual 1980s, so I asked her what she thought of the period setting. Mom said it did remind her of the 80s in a few ways, but the hair and the shoulder pads weren’t big enough.
Me? I have never been a big fan of the 80s. Hate the hair, hate the fashion, hate the aesthetic, not my first choice on a time-traveling trip even if it saves the time-travel agency seamstress some grief. I know that the 80s aesthetic has been making a comeback but so far I have not had much reason to interact with it.
The 80s were anything but my ideal setting for a Wonder Woman sequel. I wanted to have Diana and Etta Candy and the squad from the first film having an adventure in the 1920s. From the announcement, the promo posters, and the trailers, WW84 looked like it was going to be a tacky 80s period piece. But, lesson learned, never judge a movie by its trailer. WW84 actually turned out to be a beautiful and emotional film.
In a lot of ways it’s even better than the first film, and compared to a lot of other PG-13 action flicks in this day and age it’s relatively lighthearted (emphasis on relatively, there are still a few dark moments). I suppose that’s thanks to the 80s aesthetic.
A policy I am considering adopting is seeing the film/show twice before writing the review. When it comes to the big screen, though, that might be a stretch because the nearest movie theater is twenty miles away. That being said, my mom and I made the twenty-mile trip to see WW84 on the first Monday of January. It was my first time at a movie theater since The Rise of Skywalker came out, obviously because of the pandemic. It was just me and mom and a handful of other people that sat well away from us in the theater.
And let me tell you, seeing WW84 on a big screen was WORTH IT. It’s a great movie on it’s own, but it definitely deserves a big screen.
This post is addressed to people who have already seen the film, as it will be a discussion of my thoughts about the film with spoilers. If you haven’t seen it yet, stop reading here and go watch it.
Remember last year when I said I was going to seize the day and start doing the things and being productive? *Maniacal laughter*
To be fair, this year was crazy, and a lot of the craziness was related to things happening in the world at large, namely the COVID-19 pandemic. (and it looks like all the crazy is going into overtime).
Here is the summary of everything crazy going on in the world in 2020, for posterity:
Australia and the states of California and Oregon had wildfires–the adjective here is ‘apocalyptic’
The COVID-19 Pandemic
Political protests against police violence and racism and the rise of politica-correctness-zilla
A new potential disaster in the news every month (murder wasps, anyone?)
Quarantine babies (bad news for my mom, a labor and delivery nurse)
Marvel superhero projects I was looking forward too *cough Falcon and Winter Soldier* getting delayed and delayed and DELAYED because it was too risky to film during the pandemic
A presidential election between two rich and disgusting old men, neither of which I like, and the one that got elected is at risk of enabling the far left (and, update, looks like the one leaving office incited a far right insurrection, yikes)
I don’t always binge TV shows on Sunday…but when I do, it’s a live-action drama about the life of Jesus Christ and the experiences of His disciples.
No, really. I’m here to tell you the good news that this is a thing. It’s called The Chosen and it’s rocked my world on so many levels.
Is there a catch? Unfortunately, yes. There is currently only one season. Eight episodes.
Christian writer and director Dallas Jenkins has taken the traditional view of the New Testament and the life of Christ and turned it on its head.
Granted, there are several members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who are part of the production team, and season two is being shot on location in Utah and produced by VidAngel. I also heard about it on Saints Unscripted.
However, The Chosen is a huge step away from the formality of the traditional productions of even my own church such as the recent Bible videos. According to Jenkins the New Testament has never been done as a multi-season live-action televised drama before.